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Cyberspying is a form of cybercrime in which hackers target computer networks in order to gain access to classified or other information that may be profitable or advantageous for the hacker. Cyberspying is an ongoing process that occurs over time in order to gain confidential information. It can result in everything from economic disaster to terrorism.
The potentially harmful outcomes of cyberspying not only cause government security breaches but can also lead to the declassification of company secrets. This can be disastrous for companies if the attackers use stolen information to manufacture copy-cat products and gain market share.
Cyberspying can be conducted by an individual, a group or groups. During the process, specific computers that contain exact information the hacker wants to obtain are targeted. Cyber spies can lurk in networks for weeks, months or years - however long it takes them to obtain the intellectual property they are seeking, or be caught. Cyberspying often targets government agencies in order to infiltrate top-secret military or security information.
Operation Shady Rat was a major cyberspying operation that went on for five years and was ultimately reported by McAfee Security in August 2011. Operation Shady Rat's scope was vast in that it stole corporate and government data from more than 74 agencies and companies throughout the world, including data from the International Olympics Committee and the United Nations.
Operation Shady Rat was launched by spear phishing, where emails were sent to unsuspecting employees who then downloaded attachments.