… Cyberattacks against governments on the rise in 2023
By Alexander Chiejina.
Cybersecurity experts contend that the growth of digital services has resulted in an explosion of digital ecosystems, extending the attack surface and raising the associated cybersecurity threats, as governments in Africa and elsewhere become more dependent on digital technology for their operations. With these changes, managing security and privacy in a changing and exposed environment continues to be a significant concern for African businesses.
Recent large-scale cyberattacks and the difficulties in apprehending the offenders due to cross-jurisdictional concerns have brutally demonstrated that the problems associated with borderless cybercrime can only be resolved via cooperative efforts of numerous countries. Most of the time, the campaign against crime within the boundaries of regional borders is a losing cause.
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The proliferation of the internet and smartphones has hastened the adoption of digital technologies, assisting in effective service delivery as firms continue to construct infrastructure and services to support digital services at a pace never seen before. It is encouraging to see that there are a number of regional cyber security efforts aimed at tackling the continent’s growing cyber-related dangers and issues.
The cybercrime plan 2020–24, which aims to improve coordination, build specialised police capabilities, and harmonise legal and regulatory frameworks, was implemented by the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation.
This comes as data provided by the Atlas VPN team reveals that there were 49 serious cyber incidents involving government institutions in the first half of 2023, an increase of 11% from the same period last year. Governmental organisations were impacted by the attacks in at least 27 different nations. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, which tracks serious cyber incidents, provided the data on which the report was based.
Governmental organisations in the United States experienced the most attacks this year, with 16% of them being targeted particularly against the nation. There have also been several cyberattacks against state government entities in the two countries as a result of the protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Russian hackers are thought to be at the forefront of these attackers, according to the Atlas VPN Team and are accountable for about 29% of these attacks. China-related cybercriminals come in second with a share of 18%, while Iran is third with a share of 10%.
Governmental organisations gather and preserve a sizable amount of sensitive data, including details on specific residents. These organisations are a prime target for cybercriminals because of the availability of their data for sale on the dark web or hostage-taking until a ransom is paid.
In 2023, state-linked threat actors engaged in cyberespionage operations will be responsible for around a quarter (12) of all cyberattacks against government entities globally. These attacks will not just be motivated by financial gain.
There have been 616 notable cyberattacks against government institutions globally since 2005. 56% of these, including the first half of 2023, happened only in the previous five years. The US government’s cybersecurity office issued a warning in January 2023 after discovering that hackers with financial motivations had compromised federal institutions using the Mate remote desktop programme.
In contrast, a global cyberattack launched in June against a number of US federal government organisations was carried out by hackers with ties to Russia. The US Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Energy were two of the organisations impacted. According to a US cybersecurity official, the hackers used software that these agencies frequently used to exploit a weakness.
There have also been a number of cyberattacks against state government entities in the two countries as a result of the protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The National Security Agency’s cybersecurity specialists noted ransomware and supply chain intrusions in April 2023 that originated in Russia. These assaults targeted Ukraine and a number of other European countries that were supplying humanitarian supplies to the Ukrainian conflict.
Hacking into government websites, stealing private data, launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) assaults, and other tactics are all examples of cyberattacks against governments. Geopolitical tensions (such as regional and international tensions that can spill over into the cyber sphere) and economic motivations (hackers may target government systems to steal valuable information, such as financial data, or to engage in ransomware attacks for financial gain) are just a few of the factors contributing to an increase in cyberattacks against governments.
In addition, criminal networks and groups may find chances to attack government systems for financial gain or to interfere with official activities. Additionally, government organisations may be exposed to assaults due to lax cybersecurity procedures. In areas with weak cybersecurity infrastructure, this is frequently the case.