Cybersecurity threat is one of the most significant threats facing the US today. No day passes without an incident being reported, and these threats come from different actors. Some of those targeted by cybersecurity threats include financial institutions like banks and insurance companies as well as government infrastructure such as the communication and energy sectors. In a report by the Department of Homeland Security, cyber threats from hackers, terrorists and global syndicates have been on the rise, and for this reason, federal government agencies have no choice but to prioritize the issue. This essay analyzes cybersecurity threat, key actors and measures taken against the threats.
In recent years, the US has reported a number of cybersecurity threats, and according to the Department of Homeland security, hackers have attacked systems in search of information and for the purpose of extorting private and public institutions (2017). For instance, in 2016, a Los Angeles hospital’s system was attacked, and the hackers demanded to be paid in bitcoins before they could restore the hospital’s system operations. In another instance, in 2017, there were reports that Russian hackers had infiltrated a regional bank and managed to manipulate the exchange rate for the US dollar. The US continues to face cybersecurity threats internally and also externally.
From the international perspective, cybersecurity threats can be perpetrated by different actors. According to an article by the Business Insider, the US continues to face cybersecurity threats from Russia, Iran and other terrorist elements in Asia and the Middle East (Choi, 2016). These actors and how they function can be discussed as follows:
- Iran – In recent years, Iran has increased its technology and cyber warfare capacity. According to the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, Iran has increased its cyber hacking capacity and is now targeting emails of federal government officials whose work involves focus on Iran (Cilluffo, 2016). The US believes that the cyber-attacks against the Bank of America, BB&T Corp. and other leading American banks were perpetrated by Iranians. According to the Business Insider, Iran has supported Hezbollah, a terrorist group that is suspected to have launched a cyberspace attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012 (Anderson, 2014).
- Russia – Cyber and technology capabilities of Russia are considered to be one of the most sophisticated and in a report by the National Counterintelligence Executive, Russia is using sophisticated technology to collect information to help aid the Russian economy (Cilluffo, 2016). In 2016, hackers believed to be of Russian origin attacked the White House and the Defense Department systems. Notably, Ukraine experienced a nationwide blackout in 2015, and this was believed to be as a result of a cybersecurity attack by Russians.
- China – This country is believed to have sophisticated technology and capabilities and, in the past, has launched cyber-attacks against the US and other countries. For instance, in 2015, it is widely believed that China was behind a massive data breach in the US. Whereas China and the US signed an agreement that each country would desist from engaging in cyberspace attack against each other, cyber-attack activity is still continuing in China (Choi, 2016).
- North Korea – In a report by the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, North Korea has more than 6000 cyber agents that are state sponsored. North Korea is also believed to be behind the cyber-attack against Sony Entertainment Pictures in 2015 whereby the company experienced data disruption and destruction. There is also a growing concern that North Korea is increasing its cyber warfare capabilities with the intentions to attack other countries, including the US (Cilluffo, 2016).
- Terrorist and criminal organizations – Terrorist organization such as Hezbollah, AL Qaeda, ISIS and ISIL have cyber capabilities to launch attacks given that some of these organizations are known to use the internet and social media to spread propaganda. On the other hand, criminal organizations use cyberspace to extort money and demand payment from its cyber victims.
The rise of cybersecurity threats has also been a concern for the current president of the US. In 2017, President Trump released an executive order requiring the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and government systems to be enhanced. In response to this order, the Department of Homeland Security published a report detailing the steps that both the federal government and the private sector are taking to minimize automated cyber-attacks. Some of the response measures taken by the federal government and the private sector to counter these attacks include deterrence, encryption of electronic infrastructure, use of firewalls and other measures.
Cybersecurity threat continues to grow at the same pace as technologies continue to evolve. While the country has tried to invest in technologies and infrastructure to prevent cyber-attacks, the systems are not fully immune to cyber-attacks. Some of the actors, such as terrorist organizations, do not have any incentive to stop. Looking ahead, the federal government and the private sector have to develop more sophisticated measures of dealing with cyberspace attacks. More emphasis should be put on the security of the design and architecture of technology infrastructure.