We have all received that looming message notifying you when someone is trying to hack into your email. Sometimes we pass it off as nothing but spam. Other times it is a sinking feeling in the gut. Cyber attacks have been commonplace and hackers prevalent on the online landscape.
In March 2022, there were more than 6 billion potential cyber attacks worldwide in a single 24-hour period. From personal, small-scale notifications about endangered email passcodes to large-scale infiltrations like the 2014 North Korea hack into Sony, we have seen cyber wars take place. But we are beginning to see and feel the larger, lasting effects from these cyber attacks in the form of full on cyber war.
In just the first couple of months of 2022, Ukraine was riddled with cyber attacks. This was not the first instance of a cyber attack on the second largest country in Europe, but rather, just another to a long line of attacks. In 2015, suspected Russian hackers knocked out electricity for 230,000 customers in western Ukraine. In 2016, a similar attack targeted Ukraine government agencies and financial establishments. Additionally, in 2017 “NotPetya” attack on the country wiped computers belonging to the financial, business as well as power grid sectors.
Over 150 cyber attacks were launched against Ukraine in January, February, and March 2022. Extreme hackers disabled more than 70 government websites in Ukraine in January of 2022. Microsoft found malware in Ukrainian government systems that could be triggered remotely. One month later, the FBI asked US companies to alert them to “any increased (cyber)activity against Ukraine or critical US infrastructure.
The Cybersecuitty and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a “shields up” alert which recommended all organizations to adopt a heightened cybersecurity position. Within that same month, just hours before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, its eastern neighbor was hit by new malware designed to completely wipe data. For Russia, the war with Ukraine is likely serving as a live testing ground for its next generation of cyber weapons.
But the question arises, why use Ukraine as a testing ground. What makes the second largest country in Europe the ideal target? One answer may lie in the country’s semi-advanced technology landscape and its finite amount of funds. Ukraine’s tech infrastructure is similar to Western Europe and North America, but there are limited resources for counter-attacks.
To date, most cyber attacks have had less devastating effects, likely because they were only testing new cyber weapons. Cyber attacks have the capability to shut down electrical grids, destroy technology as well as explode power infrastructure. If these attacks continue at the same impact and become more prevalent, they could have an influence on the scale of a natural disaster. For instance, knocking out a power grid could create similar conditions that Texans experience in the winter of 2021 where there was loss of electricity and water as well as widespread damage due to frozen and busted pipes.
The connections between cyber and physical assets are growing, bringing greater risk to both network and physical infrastructure security. In 2021, data breaches and cyber security attacks on average cost companies $4.24 million per breach, which is 10% more than the previous year. Also, the pandemic has only heightened the potential for damage from cyber threats. With more sensitive information on the cloud and more services provided digitally, there are more chances for these attacks to occur. Furthermore, more people are working remotely, through less-secure home networks and personal devices.
While 70% of people agree the US is ranked most secure for cyber attacks, 93% of Americans are still fearful of cyber wars against the US. 50% of US tech executives say state-sponsored cyber warfare is their biggest threat, with 32% believing that defining a national cyber security protocol should be a top priority. Therefore, it is important to familiarize oneself with the precautions to take to prevent a cyber attack from occurring on a personal device. These actions include updating all software on computers and mobile devices, backing up important documents and emails as well as changing crucial passwords. 37% of Americans have cash reserves as well as online banking and 31% have generators installed with food and water storage.
With the boundary lines of battlefield becoming more complex with online territory being utilized, it is crucial to remain educated on the happenings of cyber attacks and safeguards you can use to stay safe. Read in the infographic below to learn more about the effects of cyber attacks and the future they may hold.