Cyber Security of Civilian Infrastructure – UPSC GS3

Utility: Too may cyber-attacks happening on civilian infrastructure. Hence, important.
  • Data has become the world’s most precious commodity.
  • We create more than three quintillion bytes of data every day.
  • With the growth in the digital world, attacks on data and data systems are bound to intensify.
Recent cyberattacks on Civilian infrastructure:
  • SolarWinds: It was believed to be sponsored by Russia. It involved data breaches across several wings of the U.S. government, including defence, energy, and state.
  • Hafnium: Aggressive cyberattack by a Chinese group. It exploited serious flaws in Microsoft’s software.
  • DarkSide: Ransomware attack by Russia/East Europe-based cybercriminalsAttacked the Colonial Pipeline, the main supplier of oil to the U.S. East Coast, compelling the company to temporarily shut down operations.
  • Nobellium: Russia-backed group. A phishing attack on 3,000 e-mail accounts, targeting USAID and several other organisations.
Possible motives behind Cyberattacks:
  • Nation-states involved in Cyber-attacks aim to transform the existing Geopolitical situation in their favour.
  • For cybercriminals and for terror groups, the motive is to earn increased profits.
  • Some companies encounter ‘insider threats’  due to discontent with the management or for personal reasons.
Why the cyber resilience of Civilian infrastructure needs to be strengthened?
  • Use of ‘Zero-day software’ that earlier existed only for the military domain now exists outside the military domain too. It has the capability to cripple a system and could lie undetected for a long time. The most infamous Zero-day software is Stuxnet. It almost crippled Iran’s uranium enrichment Programme.
  • Distinction between military and civilian targets is increasingly getting erased. For instance, the 2012 cyberattack on Aramco, employing the Shamoon virus, had wiped out the memories of 30,000 computers of the Saudi Aramco Oil Corporation.
  • Cyberattacks on unconventional sectors have increased. For instance, Banking and financial services were most prone to ransomware attacks, but oil, electricity grids, and lately, health care, have begun to figure prominently.
  • Number of cyberattacks on healthcare systems is increasing. Compromised ‘health information’ is proving to be a vital commodity for use by cybercriminals. The available data aggravates the risk not only to the individual but also to entire communities.
What needs to be done?
  • Need is to build deep technology in cyberspace. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, Machine learning, and quantum computing, presents new opportunities in this regard.
  • Officials in the public domain and company boards should carry out regular vulnerability assessments and create necessary awareness of the growing cyber threat.
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