Cyberwarfare might sound like something you only hear about in sci-fi or action movies, but in today’s digital world, it is a very real threat. It is an issue of national security and one which affects both the public and private sectors.
The rate at which technology is advancing, coupled with how much we rely on technology in our daily lives, means cybersecurity risks are constantly growing and continuously reshaping the threat landscape.
This is why international organisations and national governments have become so focused on cybersecurity in recent years. In fact, the cyberwarfare market was valued at $39.80 billion in 2020, and it is expected to reach a value of $103.77 billion by 2026.
In recent years, we have begun to see just how large an impact nation-state-sponsored attacks can have on public and private infrastructure as more and more attacks make the news. For example, huge names like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Telefónica, Boeing and Honda have all been a victim in recent years.
More recently, Ukraine was the victim of an attack that disrupted the Ukrainian government’s websites, believing Russia to be behind it. This has become more pivotal as a result of the ongoing war between the two nations.
But for most of us individuals and everyday organisations, these threats feel like a whole world away.
So, to educate you further on the subject, we have created this guide on cyberwarfare and how it could affect you or those around you.
What is cyberwarfare?
Let’s start with the basics and look at what cyberwarfare actually is. The term itself spans a wide variety of issues, mostly related to national security, such as terrorism, crime and espionage.
But essentially, it is when a group or multiple groups attempt to damage or disrupt another nation’s information technology infrastructure through digital attacks. These attacks can come in many forms, including ransomware, viruses or denial-of-service attacks.
They can also impact a huge range of organisations such as government, healthcare, education, transport and the military.
What does cyberwarfare look like?
It’s likely that future wars will see a lot more cyberwarfare used to attack an enemy’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, the lack of clear rules surrounding online conflicts like this means that there is a risk of these types of incidents rapidly escalating out of control.
We’ve mentioned that they can attack vital infrastructure and organisations, but to give you more context, we’ve pulled together some simpler examples of what cyberwarfare might look like.
An example might be cybercriminals starting with banks. They could deplete all the money in your account, then suddenly fill it back up with millions in a bid to get stock prices to start going crazy.
Alternatively, they could mess around with public transport, shutting down computer systems so that trains can’t run on time or perhaps closing whole grids so that airports have to shut down. On the roads, traffic lights stay stuck on red, and no one moves. Pretty soon, a large city is in chaos and gridlock.
You can see where we’re going with this.
How can this affect you?
This might all sound like the plot of a Die Hard movie right now, but it can have a real impact on regular people and businesses. As such, it’s a good idea to know how you might be affected in the case of a major incident. There are several ways this might impact your life:
By attacking and destabilising critical digital infrastructure, lots of vital modern services or processes could be affected. Power outages mean you might not be able to open or run your business as normal.
What’s more, taking down healthcare services can stop ordinary people from accessing the care or help they need.
If public transport doesn’t run, people become stranded or unable to get to work. This is not only frustrating, but it can have a larger impact on the economy and our daily lives. It can be, as we have said, a very destabilising event even to the average Jo.
Having your data stolen
Another target for many hackers, especially those involved in large scale cyberwarfare, is to steal data.
Now, you might think that this is going to be the theft of vital intelligence that could threaten national security, and in some cases, it will be. However, we all submit our information to the government, and we use online systems and tools every day that contain sensitive information about ourselves, our families and our businesses.
As such, one of the biggest ways you could be impacted by this type of attack is to have your data stolen or tampered with by a cybercriminal.
It can disrupt the economy
Think about the example we used earlier about the attackers starting with the banks. From this alone, it’s easy to see how cyberwarfare can have a greater impact on the economy. The problem is drastic changes to the economy affect all of us and could lead to crashing house prices, soaring electricity bills and more.
For example, if stocks are soaring and plummeting, things can once again become unpredictable and destabilised. Not only this but in shutting down grids, transport, etc., manufacturers, suppliers and providers cannot do their job. This could lead to food or product shortages, which, again, can impact costs and cause them to soar.
All of this is going to have a very damaging impact on the economy and on your wallet – particularly if you have a business to run.
It can lead to propaganda
Finally, propaganda has become a very talked-about subject in recent years, largely as a result of social media and the subsequent sharing of misinformation.
However, this is also a possible implication of cyberwarfare depending on the attacker’s intent. If someone is able to take control of government systems and other important public organisations, they are able to control information in whatever form it takes.
This could mean you are seeing news, adverts or videos that are fake or misleading without knowing that was the case. This can hugely impact public opinion, as well as your ability to access the truth.
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