The Impact of Geopolitics on Cybersecurity

The global cybersecurity landscape faces increasing threats, especially as new technologies emerge and bad actors become more sophisticated. Attacks are becoming more complex and costing companies of all types and sizes millions of dollars.

Geopolitics plays a major role in the cybersecurity sector. International relations are constantly changing, making protection an ever-moving target for large corporations and small businesses.

An Overview of Geopolitics

Geopolitics explains how countries, businesses, governments, and terrorist groups attempt to reach their goals by controlling various geographical factors. These entities — including governments and businesses — are constantly trying to push their agenda to gain power over each other.

The Role of Geopolitics in the Cybersecurity Landscape

Changes in geopolitics, directly and indirectly, impact the global cybersecurity landscape. When countries try to reach their goals and further their agendas, they often use any means necessary, including launching cyberattacks on other countries.

Chief information security officers (CISOs) must be highly alert due to geopolitical tensions. Some of the most powerful countries in the world — like the U.S., China, Russia, and India — are targeted more often by cybersecurity threats compared to smaller, less prevalent countries. Since these countries know they have a target on their backs, they’re forced to adopt the best cybersecurity practices to keep malicious actors at bay.

For example, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently introduced the CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification), an initiative to bolster DoD contractors’ cybersecurity programs and increase resilience to cyberattacks. This is only one step the government can take to reduce the chances of experiencing a cybersecurity incident.

Geopolitical Tensions Impacting Cybersecurity

Various geopolitical events in the past few years have prompted organizations to rethink their cybersecurity strategies, often requiring them to improve their cybersecurity posture.

The U.K. Labour Party

In January 2022, the U.K. Labour Party confirmed it had experienced a cyberattack on a third-party company that resulted in compromised member data.

According to an InfoSecurity Magazine article, this was the second time the party was attacked in the last two years. The politically motivated cyberattack rendered a significant amount of member data inaccessible. After the attack, various reports confirmed the attack was ransomware.

The Russia-Ukraine War

The Russia-Ukraine War has posed challenges for the two countries involved, but also plenty of other entities like international organizations and large multinational corporations.

According to Gartner, organizations located in or with clients in Ukraine have faced mounting cyber threats, including distributed denial of service (DDoS), increases in malware, targeted, persistent phishing attempts, disinformation campaigns, and even cyber-physical system attacks.

Iranian Government

In November 2022, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced that a group of Iranian government-sponsored threat actors exploited the Log4Shell vulnerability in an unpatched VMWare server.

The hackers compromised a U.S. federal agency, breached their network, installed cryptocurrency mining software and launched a malware attack to steal sensitive data.

How Multinational Companies Can Protect Themselves

Since the persistent tension between nations has made the cybersecurity landscape riskier than ever, it’s crucial for companies — especially those working internationally — to secure their networks, servers and applications. Here are some basic tips and best cybersecurity practices companies should follow to protect their assets.

Leverage Cybersecurity Tools

Organizations must use all the cybersecurity tools at their disposal and follow trends in the IT and cybersecurity sectors. Companies should consider adopting advanced, AI-based solutions — which can detect and prevent attacks before they happen — vulnerability management tools and other security-oriented technologies.

Beware of Common Attack Methods

Identifying common cyberattacks is another way companies can stay abreast of current happenings. CISOs should educate themselves and their fellow executives about phishing, malware, social engineering tactics, crypto scams, and DDoS attacks. When more people within an organization understand risks and vulnerabilities, the less likely the organization is to experience a cyber incident.

Heed Advice From Government Agencies

Various government agencies work to educate the masses about cybersecurity threats, including how they can wreak havoc on a company’s network. For example, CISA issued warnings to companies regarding the Russia-Ukraine War. The agency recommends that all organizations take a proactive approach to cybersecurity to protect themselves against cyber risks.

Improve Cybersecurity Training

Finally, companies across the globe should prioritize cybersecurity training for employees. Now is the time to teach all employees about practicing good cyber hygiene regardless of their position. Employees should be able to identify potential phishing scams and understand the importance of changing passwords and other critical practices.

Managing International Cybersecurity Threats in the Digital Era

The geopolitical landscape is constantly changing, which makes it difficult for the average company to keep up. In terms of cybersecurity, there’s a dire need for organizations, particularly those with international stakeholders, to protect themselves from geopolitical tensions.

War, terrorist attacks, and international conflict inevitably cause political, economic, and social unrest. While organizations might consider putting their cybersecurity on the back burner, now is not the time. Companies must focus on protecting themselves from ongoing national and international cybersecurity threats.