In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center which saw 2,000 Americans queried about various international threats to the United States, they picked ISIS as their number one worry. What comes second? Cyberattacks.
Cyberattacks are deemed a major threat by 72 percent of Americans polled and a minor threat to another 22 percent. Cyberattacks also include waging a cyberwar which would entail, for example, an attack targeting the electricity grid of a country.
Cyberattacks are seen as a bigger threat than infectious diseases, global climate change and refugees.
The fear that comes from cyberattacks is likely to be fostered due to significant breaches, state-sponsored or otherwise, that has struck various government institutions, retailers and healthcare organizations among others.
One of the biggest breaches of 2015 saw the Office of Personnel Management targeted in a massive data breach that claimed over 5 million fingerprints, a mere subset of a larger breach that compromised the personal information of some 21.5 million federal employees.
The end of the year saw the Chinese government arrest a number of hackers that were allegedly related to the breach of the Office of Personnel Management, underlining a real-world example of information hacking from a foreign nation that resulted in one of the largest governmental data breaches in United States history. The move by the Chinese government was to ease diplomatic ties and cool tensions between the two nations.
Another notable cyberattack toward the end of 2015 was that of a blackout induced by a hacker which left hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians without electricity in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine.
The outage was the first known incident of a cyberattack successfully resulting in the first ever case of a hacker-induced power outage.
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the blackout was caused due to a malware developed by a Russian hacking group called “Sandworm.”
The malware, called BlackEnergy, enabled the hackers to gain access and control over the power station’s systems.