Tracking State-Sponsored Cyber Operations

computer hardwareThe Council on Foreign Relations is at the forefront of collecting the most important data on state-sponsored cyber activity around the world. Under the guidance of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program the resulting platform paints a very dynamic world of cyber activity with new actors emerging every year. Launched in 2017, the Cyber Operations Tracker focuses primarily on how state-supported nefarious actors manipulate cyber space to gain political and/or financial advantage. The goal of this effort it to create a reliable and analytically sound database that can improve the existing cyber security policy initiatives.

Given the traditional limitations in collecting cyber security-related data, the Council on Foreign Relations fills the gaps by recording and analyzing all publicly available information on cyber operations since 2005. To date, the database consists of nearly two hundred cases of state-supported cyber incidents. Furthermore, twenty-two countries, including the United States, appear as suspects in aiding malicious cyber activity. Among the cyber operation categories, the database lists incidents of distributed denial of service, espionage, defacement, data destruction, sabotage, and doxing, which involves unauthorized publishing of private information on the internet.

To aid research efforts, the database only contains descriptions of cyber incidents that can be linked to a state-based sponsor since “reporting on nonstate actors, such as hacktivist groups, tends to be murkier and makes for less reliable data.” Some of these cases, like Lazarus Group and WannaCry, are fairly well-known through their media coverage. The others, including various compromises of cryptocurrency exchanges and targeting large international corporations, require more attention. In addition, the site includes a useful glossary of the most relevant terms, as well as a thorough explanation of the applied methodology when selecting each case.

If you’d like to learn more about Cyber Crime & National Security and Cyber Policy check out the Featured Topics section of HSDL. Please note: HSDL registration is required to view some of these sources. Or if you need to find additional resources, then ask one of our librarians for assistance!