Wednesday 26th January 2022

BLOG: The Growing Threat of Cyberattacks

While there are a multitude of threats and risks threatening the United States’ cyber landscape, the threat does not warrant the abandonment of all technological devices. However, the United States does need to take steps to be better prepared for the cyber threats that it faces.

Overall, previous administrations have taken steps to improve national cybersecurity, but none seem to have gone far enough. While many proposed bills have had bipartisan support, many have also faced bipartisan opposition. With domestic cyber issues including the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal affecting national cyber and data security, it is unsurprising that the US is ill-equipped to deal with international threats to its cyber infrastructure.

With the constant changes to methods of threat actors and the growing number of vulnerabilities on various software and networks, it is difficult for the US to catch up with its national cybersecurity. The issue is likely exacerbated due to the US’ battle between state and federal law making. Also, much like other nation states when laws or policies are made, they are often overshadowed by either a lack of understanding when it comes digital infrastructure, or they are undermined by the fast-moving pace of cyber.

The most significant growing cybersecurity threat that the Unites States faces is arguably nation-state or state-sponsored operations. Russian efforts are reportedly the most sophisticated cyber threat, with China coming in at a close second. Russian operations have previously focused on financial gain and disruption tactics. They have been previously implicated in operations targeting the United States, such as the campaign against the Democratic National Committee. Russian cybercriminal groups have also been prominent in these operations, like the DarkSide ransomware operation that targeted Colonial Pipeline.

China has branched out to focus primarily on intellectual and commercial property theft, to bolster Chinese economic prowess. Operations undertaken by China targeting the US include the campaign against the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which led to the theft of data belonging to 20 million US federal employees.

Secondary to nation-state threats, is arguable ransomware operations. The role that these campaigns play in the US threat landscape has grown significantly in recent years, with both the loss of data and the financial impact of ransom payments impacting both individuals and organizations alike. The ransomware business has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry and profits within the industry have often been shared among a few primary ransomware groups such as DarkSide and Evil Corp.

Motivation for improving US cybersecurity is obvious considering the financial impact that cyberattacks have on both global and US economic stability. In their 2020 report, Capita highlighted that when calculating data breach statistics, the United States experienced the highest cost when it came to data breaches. And the global average of costs associated with a data breach increased to $3.8 million per campaign.

Overall, it seems that the biggest threat to US cybersecurity isn’t necessarily external threats, ultimately the US’ lack of policy cohesion and the slow uptake of digital laws in the US are its downfall. As most the US’ critical infrastructure, up to 85%, is privately owned without any requirements for it to adhere to federal cybersecurity guidelines risks to privately held data and critical infrastructure services is significant. The impact of an operation targeting US critical infrastructure is less abstract since the campaign against Colonial Pipeline, and therefore the need for policy and cyber protections is higher than ever.

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