In 2022, Ukraine has already experienced new malware designed to erase data right before they were invaded by Russian troops. In the first 10 weeks of this year, Ukraine was attacked with almost 200 cyberattacks with hackers first disabling around 70 government websites in Ukraine. The FBI ultimately had to ask U.S. companies to alert them to “any increased (cyber)activity against Ukraine or U.S. critical infrastructure” and activate a “shields up” alert.
Explaining the Increase in Cyberattacks
In March, the world experienced more than 6 billion cyberattacks worldwide in a single 24-hour period. Russia and Ukraine were the heaviest hit, although the war with Ukraine is likely serving as a live testing ground for Russia’s next generation of cyber weapons. One of the main reasons Russia is using Ukraine as a testing ground is possibly due to the country’s tech infrastructure being fairly similar to Western Europe and the U.S. but with limited resources for counter-attacks.
The number of cyberattacks have significantly increased over time. For example, suspected Russian hackers disconnected electricity for more than 200,000 customers in western Ukraine. This year, the E.U. and U.S. offered cyber defense support to Ukraine, but cyberattacks are predicted to not stay within the country’s borders. Another approach to counter-attacks involves pro-Ukraine hackers targeting websites in Russia to induce chaos and panic.
The process usually involves scanning sections of the internet for vulnerable devices and then having malware attack automatically where it’s likely to cause the most damage. These attacks are typically predicted to bring collateral damage across borders. In recent years, about half of U.S. tech execs are admitting state-sponsored cyber warfare is one of their biggest fears with more than 30% of U.S. tech execs stating that we should prioritize establishing a national cybersecurity protocol.
If a Serious Cyber War Breaks Out, What Would it Look Like?
These days both our network and physical infrastructure security are at greater risk of breaches and hacks. The pandemic has only increased the potential for damage from cyberthreats due to the amount of information now being stored in the cloud and services being provided through digital means. Remote work has also become more common with people using home networks and personal devices that are not tightly secured.
There are a few differences between a cyberattack and a cyber war. Usually, cyberattacks have been less critical, probably due to them being tests for new cyberweapons. However, cyberattacks are still capable of shutting down electrical grids, causing various power infrastructures to explode or self-destruct, and destroy technology, including steel mills, gas pipelines, and centrifuges. A serious attack could affect many targets at once, magnifying the destruction.
On the other hand, a cyber war has the potential to have an impact similar to that of a natural disaster. For example, getting rid of a power grid could result in similar conditions to the 2021 Texas Freeze. This can involve widespread damage caused by frozen and burst pipes, loss of electricity, shortage of food, less access to water, and more than 200 deaths. In the U.S. only 19% of Americans are completely confident the government can protect its citizens from cyber warfare.
Many people believe the U.S. is the most secure for cyber war attacks. Nonetheless, most of potential cyberattacks are distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which aim to make a resource unusable by the masses. Americans in particular are worried about losing access to finances, cell service, and running water. Thus, Americans have already started to take action to protect themselves from cyber warfare, which includes updating all software on their computers, backing up important documents, and having cash reserves.
It’s more applicable than ever to prepare yourself for a possible war.