In 2022, cyberattacks of many varieties grew in frequency.
They did so as entities in both the public and private sectors scrambled to address vulnerabilities.
Although the news-cycle was dominated by stories related to the Ukraine War, inflation, and other events pushing ongoing cyber wars off the front page, illicit activity in the "cybersphere" was still one of the most prevalent dangers America faced.
The always evolving online methods of espionage, digital warfare, and for-profit hacking, pose a constant threat, because they are used to disrupt or damage IT systems, compromise infrastructure networks, and steal sensitive data.
Although many of the more consequential attacks are carried out primarily by ransomware gangs and government sponsored Advanced Persistent Threat groups (APTs), the past few years have seen a rise in the utilization of Ransomware-as-a-Service, which can make anyone who purchases malicious code on the dark web, a hacker.
One of the primary reasons cyberwarfare is considered so dangerous is that attacks can originate from anywhere and are very difficult to initially detect — and stop.
Additionally, with the rise of cloud computing and the increased use of mobile devices, it's easier and more convenient than ever for hackers to gain access to devices and networks remotely.
With that said, here are some of the more notable cyber events of 2022:
Data Breaches. They expose the information of millions of Americans.
Today, when people think of Twitter, they think of the company’s acquisition by Elon Musk and the controversial revelations regarding the burial of the October 2020 New York Post's reporting of the information purportedly contained in Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Less memorable than that, but still significant, was the fact that the company was victimized by a data breach affecting millions of its users.
Because of a vulnerability that was actually discovered in January of 2022, a hacker known as "Devil" was able to access the data of over 5.4 million Twitter users.
That stolen data included E-mail addresses and phone numbers from celebrities and companies and was offered for sale on the hacking forum known as "BreachForums."
Another major hack centered around student loans, which were a hot subject in the summer leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, due to the Biden administration’s proposed Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
That hack, which exposed the social security numbers of more than 2.5 million individuals, involved student loan servicer Nelnet Servicing, which provides technology services, inclusive of a Website portal to two student loan companies: Edfinancial and OSLA services.
Thus, student loan registration data including names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers, were accessible as a result of the hack during June and July of 2022.
Cyber-War Between Nation-States. In 2022, there was no shortage of activity related to everything from reconnaissance and espionage, to attacks against critical infrastructure.
These types of quasi-military cyber operations were evident in the flurry of attacks carried out on both sides of the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as other long-standing conflicts between established combatants.
The early portion of the Ukraine conflict saw a spike in cyber-attacks.
These included the Russian-based Hermetic Wiper attacks devastating organizations in Ukraine by wiping out data on Windows-based computers and networks, as well as the February 2022 distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeting the financial sector in Ukraine.
In the months after the war began, "hacktivism" groups sympathetic to the Russian cause would organize cyber-attacks via the messaging app: Telegram.
Outside of the Ukraine conflict, late June saw Iran’s state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company, and two other steel companies, halt production after suffering an Israeli cyber-attack.
The Israeli hacking group claiming responsibility said it targeted Iran’s three biggest steel companies in response to the "aggression of the Islamic Republic."
Lastly, the Chinese Advanced Persistent Threat group APT41, brazenly stole at least $20 million in COVID relief (Small Business Administration [SBA] loans and unemployment insurance).
The United States Secret Service told NBC News that there were currently more than 1,000 ongoing investigations into the defrauding of public benefits programs, with China’s APT41 being "a notable player."
Espionage Driven Hacks Target Policy Experts. The North Korean APT group known as either Thallium or Kimsuky targeted individuals who are influential in foreign governments in an effort to understand where policy may be headed on North Korea.
In October, Daniel DePetris, a U.S.-based foreign affairs analyst, was targeted by the NoKo APT. DePetris received an email claiming to be from the director of the 38 North think-tank, Jenny Town, commissioning an article.
But in reality, the sender was a member of Thallium or Kimsuky.
Despite these stories and the fact that the threats facing larger public and private sector entities carry the most potential for devastation, most cyber-attacks still target individuals.
Whether its new strains of ransomware from some of the more prominent gangs like STOP/Djvu, or browser hijackers that attempt to take you to dangerous sites loaded with malware, as each year passes, you become more likely to be an online attack victim.
Although agencies like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) invest manpower and billions of dollars towards keeping Americans safe, wildcards like the Log4Shell Vulnerability still exist, and there just aren’t enough eyes available to keep all Americans safe.
The 2023 likelihood, much like 2022, will play host to the most cyberattacks in history.
Julio Rivera is a small business consultant, political activist, writer, and editorial director. He has been a regular contributor to Newsmax since 2016, on both its web pages and television network. His commentary has also appeared in The Hill, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Toronto Sun, and more. Read Julio Rivera's Reports — More Here.
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