Cybersecurity is a chief concern for many governments all over the world. Given the increase in attacks from terrorists, foreign nations, and other cybercriminals, we have to stop and ask what measures are being put in place by governments to stay safe. Are these solutions enough or nations are falling behind in their cybersecurity efforts? Let’s explore.
Why governments are prime targets
Behind every cyberattack aimed at a government is a political or economic motivation. Information is precious which explains the rise in cyber espionage and tradecraft. Government databases are specifically targeted because they contain classified, top-secret military, economic and social information.
Speaking at the 2019 Aspen Security Forum, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said of the menacing threats from Iran, China, and Russia, “that is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.” The fact that even small nation-states like North Korea have the ability to launch sophisticated cyberattacks on the U.S. is cause for concern.
Today’s biggest arms race is taking place behind closed doors in a virtual space and U.S. defense leaders are reacting accordingly. The Pentagon has ramped up efforts to recruit and train a new cadre of computer experts in order to tackle this troublesome issue. But are these efforts enough?
In the last decade, there have been several notable cyberattacks against governments.
In 2011, a phishing attack was successfully carried out during the Paris G20 Summit in which 150 computers, each with authorized access to privileged G20 information were infected with a virus.
In 2012 and later in 2015, unauthorized entry was detected on the systems of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Further inspections revealed a data breach in which 22 million records including sensitive information such as addresses, social security numbers, and fingerprint data was comprised.
In 2014, the Indian government’s Aadhaar database was also hacked. The personal information of over 1 billion Indians was stolen and sold on the dark web.
In 2015, the offices of several German parliamentarians including that of Chancellor Angela Merkel were hacked. Internal data and emails were copied by hackers.
In 2016, US presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton and staff were the unfortunate victims of repeated cyberattack and espionage. Chairman of the presidential campaign, John Podesta had his personal email accounts compromised with thousands of emails leaked.
In 2017, the Ukrainian tax system was infected by the virulent NotPetya virus deployed by Russian threat vectors. The virus caused havoc and affected big businesses in countries such as Denmark, the US, UK, and France.
In 2018, hackers made a successful attempt to gain access to the emails of Northern Ireland’s parliamentarians.
What is clear to see is that attacks are getting more belligerent and persistent. Governments cannot afford to keep falling behind in cybersecurity protections. They need to step up their efforts.
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