Reports that one of Australia's main universities, the University of Monash, near Melbourne, has been hacked by Iranian nationalists, highlights the changing face of hacker attacks, says Lieberman Software.
"For some time our industry has geared up to prevent cyberattacks by gangs of organised criminals, and as a result, most Web servers now have some of the industry’s best security defences installed. But now we are seeing the birth of a new category of hackers, the politically motivated, and this is a potentially serious development," said Phil Lieberman, president of the privilege identity management specialist.
"The problem with politically motivated hackers is that, unlike cybercriminals - where if a site's defences are too great, they will simply give up and move on - they don't give up. They just keep on working away until they find a gap in the security of a Web server, and then they exploit it," he added.
The fact that the hackers are spending days, if not weeks, tirelessly hacking away at a Web server - or group of Web site's defences- until they find a way in, he says, is a new trend in the IT security industry.
The danger now, he adds, is that cybercriminals will team up with this new generation of hackivists, and tap their obviously powerful desires for their own criminal aims.
Paying an experienced coder to look for gaps in the security of a Web site server is one thing, but making a contribution to a group of dogmatic fanatics is another thing entirely. These guys don't take tea breaks or stop for dinner. They just keep on at it, the Lieberman Software president explained
Judging from what has been reported in the Australian media over the weekend, the Iranian hactivist managed to deface the main page of the Victoria state university's Web site, but the good news is that the university's IT team were on the case - even on a Sunday - and remediated the defacement, he said.
Whilst Monash university's IT team have been at pains to stress that no data was stolen, Lieberman added that we have witnessed an unusual event - a politically motivated hacktivist gaining unauthorised access to the Web site of a high-profile Australian university that has an international presence and a quarter of million alumni.
"This is almost certainly not the last time we will see the defacement of a high profile Web site, but the danger now is that cybercriminals will tap into this politically-motivated hactivism and raise their own hacking game," he said.
"More than anything, this event needs to act as a wake-up call for any organisation with a Web presence and/or an Internet-facing set of IT servers. They need to beef up their security and quickly, before the cybercriminals learn some new strategies," he added.