Cyberwarfare unfreezing a new Cold War warns McAfee CSO

Ex NATO agent fears Lockheed Martin hack the prelude to a major attack on the West

McAfee US chief security officer,Brett Wahlin.

McAfee US chief security officer,Brett Wahlin.

The Cold War between the USA and Russia may have ended two decades ago but a new frosty conflict between America and China together with North Korea has emerged on the digital frontier, according to McAfee’s US chief security officer (CSO).

Brett Wahlin, a former North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) counter intelligence agent, told Computerworld Australia that the RSA token hack in March this year – where the token information was used to infiltrate US defence contractor Lockheed Martin – used the same espionage tactics he encountered while serving as an agent from 1987 to 1991 with the US army for NATO.

Although Wahlin did not reveal which country was behind the attack, he suspected that the communist-led governments of China and North Korea had the resources – and the most to gain – from infiltrating Lockheed Martin.

“Instead of dealing with paper copies of classified documents that get passed at dead drops [secret locations] by agents, we're dealing with digital information such as source codes that can be analysed to fit in an overall scheme,” he said.

“It seems the targets like Lockheed Martin are starting to get softened up.

“This isn’t the end game; there is something bigger coming down the pipe and what we are seeing right now is a prelude to that.”

“There could be a new warfare doctrine been created.

“I was in that world [NATO] for so long that when it looks and feels like a Cold War, there may be something else going down."

Wahlin pointed out that the RSA token hack, along with another hack traced back to China called Night Dragon, did not appear, at least on the surface, to be done for monetary gain.

"I think those attacks are linked to a cyber Cold War because who gained financially from Night Dragon?” he said.

“There was not a series of bank accounts that you could take money out of and why else would someone steal token seed files from RSA unless they wanted to go after its defence/government customers like Lockheed Martin?

“Countries such as China might be looking to get Lockheed Martin’s military design plans.”

While Night Dragon has remained underground since the initial attack, Wahlin said McAfee was keeping an eye out for more attacks that used it.

"Night Dragon will be out there as long as it has a host to come in and infect,” he said.

“The actual specific sets of malware that, where involved in Night Dragon and the concept, involved with something like it continue.

“We are seeing more and more cases and big samples of malware that are going after everything from infrastructure like Night Dragon to security companies like RSA."

Keeping on the Cold War theme, Wahlin also suspects hacktivist groups like Anonymous may eventually turn into cyber mercenaries, working for the highest bidder.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hackersmcafeersa securitysecurityNATONight DragonMcAfee Brett Wahlin

More about IntelLockheed MartinMcAfee AustraliaNATORSAWest

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Hamish Barwick

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place