**What is a Nation-State Attack? A Full Breakdown on Modern-Day Cyber Threats**
As society continues to rely more on technology and transfers to a digitized era, the world is more connected than ever before. However, this increase in interconnectivity has opened the doors to a more significant threat: nation-state attacks. These attacks are not just targeting companies and individuals but countries as a whole. A cyber-attack on a country comes with more severe consequences than a regular data breach. Understanding nation-state attacks, how they operate and how countries are reacting to them is essential in protecting us against the current threats online.
## What is a Nation-State Attack?
A nation-state attack is an attack in which one country condemns a cyber-attack against another, often political or monetary, leveraging their proficiency in cybersecurity technology to disrupt the targeted nation's critical infrastructure. The political nature of these attacks means that nation-state attacks often compromise or steal sensitive government data, such as classified documents, various personal data of senior government officials and decision-makers, concerning diplomatic relationships, and access to critical infrastructure.
Nation-state attackers primarily target critical infrastructure sectors such as energy, healthcare, telecommunications, and military organizations, aiming to gain control of these crucial systems through malware, by exploiting security lapses, or through social engineering tactics.
## Real-Life Examples of Nation-State Attacks
The most notable and reoccurring nation-state attack in recent years is the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017. The malware affected over 500,000 devices in over 150 countries, including United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS). The attack forced the NHS to cancel its daily appointments, resulting in a substantial loss of time and money for the NHS and widespread panic among the UK population.
Another notable example of a nation-state attack is the North Korean state-sponsored cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014, believed to be in retaliation for their movie, "The Interview," satirizing North Korean leadership. The attack caused widespread damage to the company, leading to $100 million in losses and significant data breaches.
## Why Do Countries Carry Out Nation-State Attacks?
Financial gains are the primary motivation for many nation-state attacks. Countries are interested in acquiring trade secrets and intellectual property to enhance their own economy. A few nations view nation-state attacks as an essential part of their competitive strategic toolkit to establish dominance or coercion in their region, often as a form of political leverage. Countries can form alliances to create a united front that protects the interests of their particular region.
## The Consequences of Nation-State Attacking
Nation-state attacks can cause significant financial loss, damage to reputations, and harm to human life. By influencing critical infrastructure, attackers potentially obtain the ability to cause injury, disrupt the economy, and even power outages that can result in deaths. The reputational damage resulting from a successful cyber-attack can result in the public losing confidence in governments that may have led to a loss of public trust.
As a result, many countries are now leveling up their knowledge and infrastructure to counteract these types of cyberattacks. Some countries are adopting policies and regulations to restrict access to their critical infrastructure and reduce the attack surface. They are beginning to understand the importance of cyber hygiene - patch management, vulnerability management, hardening devices, and employee training.
## The Future of Nation-State Attacks
Nation-state attacks will continue to be a threat to all governments, corporations, and organizations. The political, economic, and social impacts of these types of incidents will continue to be significant. Improving cybersecurity and vigilance must be a collective effort, drawing together forward-thinking policy, strategy, and experience-based advice to adopt robust cybersecurity practices.
In summary, with more significant interconnectivity, the threat of cyber-attacks is inevitable. Nation-state attacks have the potential to about significant harm and damage to the targeted country, infrastructure, and businesses. As a global community, we must work together to improve our defenses continually and have the ability to tackle these emerging trends. We must contain these cyber threats and protect all stakeholders' interests. Otherwise, we remain open to more significant attacks in the future.