What we can learn from The Undeclared War

By Nicole Allen, Senior Marketing Executive at Salt Communications

The Undeclared War, a drama series on Channel 4, has continued to raise public awareness of the need for cyber security. In the show as a general election draws near, the series follows a group of GCHQ analysts engaged in a covert fight to protect the UK against cyberattacks. GCHQ intern Saara Parvin (Hannah Khalique-Brown) finds herself on the undetectable frontlines of cyber warfare with a lot on the line when she discovers some malware intended to harm the UK right before the election.

Peter Kosminsky, the show’s creator, certainly did his research when he examined how people seated in front of keyboards are fully involved in today’s modern war zone known as a ‘Cyber Warfare’ and how powerful nations communicate with one another. The series eventually reaches a disturbing point in its final episodes as it focuses not just on cyber warfare but also on how social media and technology can influence political views.

So how accurate is the depiction of a cyber attack, and what can organisations take away from the programme? The show does a great job of exposing the ransomware dangers that CIOs and CISOs ought to pay attention to:

  1. The show brings potential dangers of cybercrime into people’s consciousness

The Undeclared War may seem absurd to some, but it has accomplished what annual white papers and research numbers frequently fail to do: it has raised awareness of the potential risks of cybercrime and made it a topic of debate, both at home and in professional settings.

Early in the series, we meet disgruntled GCHQ employees who are being watched as possible weak points that the hackers could exploit. Vadim Trusov, a Russian citizen and reluctant FSB team member who provides counterintelligence to the British, is another person we encounter who is a weak link.

Instead of attempting to forcefully enter the network, it is almost usually simpler to introduce malware through social engineering techniques or simple bribery. It serves as a warning that even the most intelligent people occasionally fail to follow security best practices. It has demonstrated the seriousness of data breaches and informed viewers about terms used in cybersecurity circles, such as “sandbox” and “stress test,” which involves putting pressure on a piece of code to see if it can withstand a threat (a contained environment where codes can be tested to see if they contain a virus).

  1. A ransomware attack’s primary motivation is to make a profit

It’s very simple to compare hackers to pickpockets: dishonest individuals looking to make quick cash through illegal means. So not every ransomware attack is motivated by financial gain. Of course, there is no doubt that the undeclared war has political motivations. Although it is obvious that they are first the target of an encrypting attack and subsequently an exfiltration attack, they mostly refer to them as “malware” rather than “ransomware.”

For all organisations, learning that these attacks could involve factors other than financial gain is crucial if they wish to stay safe. Hackers could be motivated by the glory of taking down a major security firm, vengeance against an entertainment corporation for cancelling their favourite show, or plain old malice for a disgruntled employee. Your data is at risk if you only have one type of attack protected.

  1. Systems you might not even think of hackers WILL find a way in 

The hackers in the show don’t directly attack the systems used to record votes when they wish to interfere with an election. Instead of concentrating on the less well secured locations that can frequently have just as significant an impact, they do so because they know that they will have the highest levels of protection.

The hackers target the exit polls in the plot to give the appearance that the election has been rigged. To foment division, they might have equally easily targeted databases of party supporters or websites for tactical voting. Businesses should also consider where the weak connections are in their supply chains and network, whether it be an illusory network-connected air conditioner or a deficient API.

How realistic is the Undeclared War?

Experts claim that the show is unquestionably realistic, despite what some critics argue. Global cyber-security advisor Jake Moore stated that events in the show may occur in real life. Online activities surrounding the Brexit referendum and our general elections, with hostile operations being traced back to Russia, are the most recent examples of our national cyber security coming under attack.

The real team is aiming to block “invisible” foes from targeting everybody in the country with a computer or phone, which is essentially all of us, from terrorism to online fraud. Of course, the timing of the programme is also opportune. Russia started its offensive cyber assault an hour after it invaded Ukraine. Many of Ukraine’s internet connections are provided by a communications corporation named Viasat. Russia was able to freeze it, making it unusable.

A case similar to the Undeclared War that was solved by the GCHQ in which a sophisticated criminal conspiracy and peer-to-peer botnet known as Gameover Zeus infected over 500,000 users around the world. This traced back to a Russian hacker, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev who wanted to steal millions of dollars from anyone with a lot of money in their account to warrant raiding their accounts.

Why watching the Undeclared War is important for educating organisations 

Seeing cybersecurity getting more coverage can only be a good thing. Vigilance is the lesson that both corporations and the general public may learn from ‘The Undeclared War’. You may feel more at ease and safeguard your assets from the very real risk of a data leak by approaching cybersecurity pro-actively rather than reactively.

It is a good method to educate the public about potential outcomes, and that this will make people more watchful because being sceptical of anything is typically one of your best defences. The Undeclared War deserves praise for bringing important cyber security issues to the attention of a wide audience. Keep in mind whilst watching that there are undoubtedly some crucial lessons to be explored and hopefully it will touch enough people to take action.

To discuss this article in greater detail with the team or to sign up for a free trial of Salt Communications contact us on [email protected] or visit our website at https://saltcommunications.com/.

About Salt Communications 

Salt Communications is a multi-award winning cyber security company providing a fully enterprise-managed software solution giving absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. Salt Communications offers ‘Peace of Mind’ for Organisations who value their privacy, by giving them complete control and secure communications, to protect their trusted relationships and stay safe. Salt Communications is headquartered in Belfast, N. Ireland, for more information visit Salt Communications.

About the Author

Nicole Allen AuthorNicole Allen, Senior Marketing Executive at Salt Communications. Nicole has been working within the Salt Communications Marketing team for several years and has played a crucial role in building Salt Communications reputation. Nicole implements many of Salt Communications digital efforts as well as managing Salt Communications presence at events, both virtual and in person events for the company.

Nicole can be reached online at (LINKEDIN, TWITTER  or by emailing [email protected]) and at our company website https://saltcommunications.com/

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