What are the Worst State-Sponsored Hacking Groups?

By John King, CISSP, PMP, CISM •  Updated: 12/29/22 •  3 min read

State-sponsored hacking groups are teams of hackers who are sponsored, directly or indirectly, by a government or other organization with the resources and motivation to carry out complex and sophisticated attacks. These groups often operate in secrecy and may have access to advanced tools and techniques that are unavailable to other hackers.

State-sponsored hacking groups have been active for decades, and their activities have been documented in numerous cases around the world. Some well-known examples include:

APT1

APT1 (Advanced Persistent Threat 1) is a group of hackers that was believed to be sponsored by the Chinese government. APT1 was first identified by cybersecurity firm Mandiant in 2013 and was linked to a number of high-profile data breaches, including the breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2015.

Equation Group

The Equation Group is a group of hackers that was believed to be sponsored by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The group was first identified by the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab in 2015. It was linked to a number of highly sophisticated attacks, including the use of a powerful malware called “EquationDrug.”

APT28

APT28 (Advanced Persistent Threat 28) is a group of hackers that was believed to be sponsored by the Russian government. APT28 was first identified by cybersecurity firm FireEye in 2014 and has been linked to a number of high-profile attacks, including the 2016 breach of the Democratic National Committee.

Lazarus Group

The Lazarus Group is a group of hackers that was believed to be sponsored by the North Korean government. The group was first identified by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab in 2014 and has been linked to a number of high-profile attacks, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack.

State-sponsored hacking groups often have specific goals and motivations for their attacks. These can include gathering intelligence, stealing sensitive data, or disrupting the operations of other countries or organizations. In some cases, state-sponsored groups may also be involved in cyber espionage, seeking to gather information about other countries military, political, or economic activities.

One of the key challenges in dealing with state-sponsored hacking groups is the difficulty in attributing attacks to specific groups or countries. Hackers often use various techniques to cover their tracks and make it difficult to trace the origin of an attack. In addition, governments may have incentives to deny involvement in cyberattacks, even when evidence points to their involvement.

To protect against state-sponsored hacking attacks, individuals and organizations can implement strong security measures, such as firewalls and encryption, and train employees to recognize and avoid phishing attacks and other common tactics. It is also crucial for governments and international organizations to work together to address the problem of state-sponsored hacking and to establish norms and rules for responsible behavior in cyberspace.

John King, CISSP, PMP, CISM

John King currently works in the greater Los Angeles area as a ISSO (Information Systems Security Officer). John has a passion for learning and developing his cyber security skills through education, hands on work, and studying for IT certifications.