Spyware and Hackers-for-Hire: Emerging Corporate Espionage Threats


April 30, 2023

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is a UK government agency that is responsible for providing guidance and support to organizations and individuals on cybersecurity matters. One of the key ways that the NCSC achieves this is through the publication of various reports, including threat reports.

These threat reports provide valuable insights into the current cybersecurity landscape, including emerging threats and trends. They are intended to help businesses and organizations stay informed about potential risks and vulnerabilities so that they can take appropriate measures to protect themselves.

Recently, on April 19th, 2023, the NCSC published a report entitled "The threat from commercial cyber proliferation". This report discusses the threat of commercial cyber proliferation, where commercial entities offer cyber tools and services that are accessible to state and non-state actors, including Hacking-as-a-Service and hackers-for-hire. The report explains that this trend has lowered the barriers to entry for acquiring cyber capabilities and that the sophistication of some commercial intrusion cyber products can rival those of some state-linked Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups.

The report further highlights the potential threats posed by the proliferation of commercial cyber capability, including corporate espionage and unpredictable targeting, and notes that commercial spyware has been used to target journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents, among others. Finally, the report emphasizes the need for a coordinated international response to this problem, as it is an international problem that requires an international solution.

The main idea of the report is that the proliferation of commercial cyber tools and services poses a threat to both state and non-state actors. The report highlights that the availability of off-the-shelf and bespoke hacking services, zero-day exploits, and spyware for mobile devices can lower the barrier to entry for obtaining cyber capabilities and intelligence, which could lead to an expanding number and type of victims.