Facing the Cyber Pandemic
The days when cyberspace could be regarded as a lawless wild west are long over. The Internet has become a critical part of our global infrastructure, and attacks against its core functions, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, should be treated as the existential threats that they are.
WASHINGTON, DC/NEW DELHI – The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the Internet is a critical – and uniquely global – part of our infrastructure. As challenging as the public-health lockdowns have been, their social and economic costs would be far greater in the absence of smoothly functioning digital networks.
Moreover, containing the pandemic itself will likely require better and more innovative uses of our collective data, all of which is generated online. Home offices, home schooling, and home life increasingly depend on our ability to use the Internet. Protecting cyberspace is therefore an increasingly urgent task, not least because it is facing a “pandemic” of its own.
Since early March, there has been an unprecedented global increase in malicious cyber activity. Phishing attacks seeking to steal money or secrets from home-office workers have more than doubled compared to last year, and in some places they are up sixfold. There have also been a number of attempted cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, including airports, power grids, ports, and water and sewage facilities. Even hospitals treating COVID-19 patients have been targeted, and the World Health Organization itself has reported a fivefold increase in attacks on its networks.