Research published PrivacyAffairs shows a rapid increase in the frequency of state-sponsored cyber attacks and draws severe conclusions on the way the world could be heading from the perspective of geopolitical cyber attacks.
An October 2019 study into cyberwarfare attacks shows a 440% increase in global cyberwarfare attacks between 2009 and 2018, of which 26.3% targeted the USA.
This year there have been two major ransomware incidents on US soil, targeting the City of Baltimore, and several cities in Texas. The scope of the attacks surpassed expectations despite the evident dangers that cyberwarfare poses.
Not only were state-run agencies and various companies prey to these attacks, but people living their lives comfortably ended up on the receiving end, their data stolen, they get scammed, they don’t have access to basic services, and so on.
We believe everyone should realize just how dangerous cyberwarfare really is. It affects people’s private lives, financial security, and overall lifestyle. But who’s to blame for all this?
Who is behind the cyberattacks?
When it comes to cyberwarfare attacks conducted during the last 10 years, there are two main agents of mayhem and destruction to blame – China and Russia.
Together, they amount to approximately 35% of all global attacks. China, for instance, launched 79 attacks that we know of against 20 countries in this timeframe.
Attacks originating in China 2009-2019
The diagram above shows the specific targets of Chinese state-sponsored cyber-attackers from 2009 to 2019. The USA has sustained the bulk of these attacks, with a total of 25 major incidents targeting the country.
Next, we have Russia who’s targeted a total of 19 countries across 10 years, resulting in 75 attacks.
Attacks originating in Russia 2009-2019
The common target of both China and Russia has most frequently been the USA, something to be expected given the competition between the three superpowers. Add together the predilection of both countries to target the US, and the result is a staggering 82.7% of attacks from China and Russia targeting the USA..
Who suffers the consequences?
The most damaging cyber-attacks that have taken place this year in the USA occurred in Baltimore and several cities in Texas.
The Baltimore Attack took place on 17th May 2019. The city’s computers were hijacked by a ransomware virus called RobbinHood. For every computer affected, the city had to pay 13 Bitcoins to gain access to the encrypted files. The FBI strongly recommended they don’t give in to the demands.
Who had to suffer because of this?
The common people, since ATMs, hospitals, airports, and several factories were affected by the ransomware.
Interestingly enough, the attack could have been prevented had the city officials been more vigilant. The ransomware was a variant of Eternal Blue, which the NSA had reported as stolen by Chinese hackers. In 2017, Microsoft had issued security patches against this vulnerability. The Baltimore leadership, however, had somehow forgotten to install these patches. You can find a great overview of how most hackers operate here.
The Texas Attack saw another type of ransomware (Nemucod) targeting 23 agencies and local governments across the state. Curiously, the hackers made no demands at all. The files were simply encrypted with a .JSE extension and that was it. You can read more about ransomware here.
The head of security at Amtrust International, Ian Thornton-Trump, hinted at the lack of basic security knowledge that allowed for this attack to happen. Ransomware arrives on a computer either through an infected link, attachment or suspicious executable.
What does the future have in store?
Over the last 10 years, there’s been an increase of 440% in cyberwarfare across the globe. This increase has happened most rapidly since 2016, and it appears as though such attacks will continue to occur at an ever increasing rate.
With each technological leap, countless resources are being allocated on offense and defense-oriented tactics in cyberwarfare. US hackers have directed attacks toward Russia and China as well.
It’s a game of chess played on a back-and-forth system where the biggest losers are the common people. If only those leading us would be more vigilant against these high-end technological risks coming to our doorstep!
We might not know exactly what the future holds in store in terms of cyberwarfare but we can speculate given the historical data. It’s not looking good. Moreover, the attacks keep getting more frequent and more serious as technology advances.