Expect cyber attacks on critical national infrastructure

By Kirsten Doyle, ITWeb contributor

Johannesburg, 30 Jun 2020
Dr Kenneth Geers
Dr Kenneth Geers

Organisations and critical infrastructure across the world are set to experience an increasing number of cyber attacks, perpetrated by well-funded rogue nation states and attackers looking to disrupt operations, make money or commit industrial espionage.

So says Dr Kenneth Geers, senior fellow of the Atlantic Council and a NATO Cyber Centre ambassador, who will be speaking at the ITWeb Security Summit 2020 virtual event, to be held from 25 to 28 August.

Geers, whose talk is titled ‘Alliance power for cyber security’, shares some of the attack scenarios he foresees in 2020.

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He says the Coronavirus pandemic is providing cyber spies and criminals with new opportunities to gain a foothold on target computer networks via phishing and other forms of social engineering.

“We must do a better job of educating our employees and citizens about the dynamics and dangers of social engineering," he says.

“We are overdue for a cyber attack on national critical infrastructure, somewhere, of sufficient scale that national security decision makers will be compelled to address questions of digital deterrence and arms control in a more systematic way.”

In terms of politically-motivated attacks, Geers says: “The 2020 US presidential election will be a target for adversary information operations in social media, and possibly denial-of-service attacks against election infrastructure. Most of the attacks will be unsuccessful, but they could diminish public trust in the democratic process.”

The intensity of attacks may depend on how close the race is in November, he adds.

Geers believes that Russia will use cyber attacks to undermine the cohesion of the EU and NATO. “However, these alliances have the capability, via intelligence sharing, investigation, and joint response, to successfully counter them — if the political will is there.”

...national security decision makers will be compelled to address questions of digital deterrence and arms control in a more systematic way.

Dr Kenneth Geers

If Vladimir Putin’s popularity continues to slide, Ukraine can expect, once again, to be targeted by Russian cyber attacks, he says.

“As diplomatic progress on the Korean Peninsula has reached another stalemate, North Korea will also likely step up its efforts to evade sanctions and steal money via cyber crime.”

Also, Geers believes that if Israel annexes part of its occupied territories, and Iran continues to experience political and social unrest, the ongoing cyber war between Israel and Iran should intensify, which will have an impact on other countries, he concludes.

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