Cyber security

A Year in Cybersecurity: Is This Global Cyberwar?


Photo by Anete Lusina

Weapons of war are in a state of continuous evolution and in the 21st century, computers have become the weapon of choice. While ground and air warfare are still a reality, online battles rage daily. 

The past year has shown us what wide-ranging cyberwar could look like, with attacks on infrastructure, supply chains, and directly on government assets. 

In this article we’re going to get into:

  • Cybersecurity trends in the last year;
  • Whether we’re in the midst of global cyberwar;
  • The role of VPNs in combating cyberwar.

The changing landscape of cybersecurity

Colonial Pipeline: the biggest attack

The biggest story of the last year in cybersecurity has undoubtedly been the attack on Colonial Pipeline. In 20th century war, fuel supply sabotage would have been in the form of bombs but in 2021, the computer systems of a fuel supplier were taken out. 

With a stolen password, the Russian hacking group DarkSide infiltrated the computer systems of an oil pipeline. The attack led to fuel shortages across the US East Coast while a ransom of $5 million was demanded. 

Other major attacks

Other well-known companies have recently been hit by ransomware. Chip manufacturer Nvidia came under fire from notorious Russian online gangsters Lapus$, causing concern for an already shaky semiconductor supply chain. 

 The Japanese car manufacturer Toyota also came under sustained attack in 2022, with three suppliers being taken down. 28 production lines across 14 factories were closed as the smaller companies integral to Toyota’s processes were unable to send parts on time. 

It’s not just big businesses that are in the crosshairs of hackers. The government of Costa Rica declared a national emergency in April and May 2022 as the ministries of finance, labor, and health were targeted. Personnel records were leaked when ransom payments weren’t made. 

The cash demanded by the hackers who steal data or encrypt whole networks has also jumped in the last year. In Q2 2022, there was an 8 percent increase in the value of ransom payments, up to $228,000 from the previous quarter. 

How do these recent trends feed into the wider geopolitical landscape?

Are we in a global cyberwar?


The trends in attacking businesses and critical infrastructure seem to be coming from gangs rather than governments. However, most of the money seems to feed into one country, the historic US adversary: Russia.

Nearly three-quarters of ransoms paid by companies to retrieve their data was paid to Russia in 2021 according to BBC data. The level of government direction and coordination isn’t clear, but there are definite Cold War themes to the current cybercrime climate. 

Indeed, it was only in March this year that President Biden was issuing warnings that American companies and the government should shore up defenses in light of Russian threats. Months later and the recent budget rounds on the Hill have allocated $15.6 billion for cybersecurity spending. 

The land invasion of Ukraine by Russia wasn’t unexpected in the global community and neither were the online skirmishes we’ve seen since. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there have been 53 attacks against Ukrainian government departments, companies, and politicians since October 2021. 

However, Western governments have said they were expecting the cyber attacks to be more widespread. “Perhaps the concept of a ‘cyber war’ was overhyped,” said the head of British intelligence agency GCHQ in May 2022

By July 2022, the EU was issuing a strong condemnation of pro-Russian hackers that have been attempting to disrupt the online space. The messages on how much the online war is aligning with Russia’s inability to make tactical gains on the ground do seem to have been mixed so far. 


The heads of both the FBI and UK-based MI6 also issued a joint warning about commercial and industrial espionage from China earlier this year. 

This other traditional flashpoint of political tensions is receiving focus for its online attacks and hacks against Western companies, threatening economic stability. 

We consistently see that it’s the Chinese government that poses the biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security,” said FBI director Christopher Wray in July 2022. 

The landscape of war has changed and the way countries are attacking and defending themselves against online attacks has developed with it. 

How can you, your family, and your business stay safe online?

A few simple tactical weapons for you

The Colonial Pipeline attack we looked at earlier all came down to one compromised password. A former employer’s password was hacked and was used to break through otherwise robust security. 

You can opt for using a password manager that’ll create and store strong passwords for you. 

As a second line of defense, a cyber security tool such as VPN can prevent passwords from being stolen on public networks. 

VPNs have become more than a way to mask your browsing data, though. A 2022 trend has been for VPN companies to expand their cybersecurity offerings. 

Now, when you download a VPN, you can get tools like:

  • Data breach alerts;
  • Antivirus software;
  • Secure search.

The era of global cyberwar

The cold war may have ended in the early 90s, yet the demarcation of sides in the global cyber war seems to fall along the same lines. 

While wars with ground troops and aerial bombardments have been localized – and nevertheless devastating – cyber war is far-reaching. 

Hackers can rarely be traced back to a government agency yet the flow of attacks feels all too familiar; West vs East, democracy vs dictatorship. 

The rules of engagement are less clear in this new era but we can be sure that online attacks will be a supporting weapon of the future. 

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button