scroll to top arrow or icon

The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them

The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them

Imagine one day you found out someone had hacked your phone. What would that mean for your life? With the right software, the bad guys might be able to get into your bank account, surveil your messages, or even steal your fingerprints and facial scans.

That's what happened to human rights attorney David Haigh, who became the first-known British victim of the powerful Pegasus spyware in 2021 while trying to help women of Emirati and Jordanian royalty escape alleged abuse. He learned that his phone was under surveillance – so his communications and the information stored on the device were compromised.

Two years on, he still lives in fear for the privacy of his loved ones and clients. "The police have done nothing,” he says. “There's no support from the government. There's no real information.”


Emerging technologies threaten to make the already-bleak cybersecurity environment all the more treacherous, opening new avenues of attack that could cost countries, companies, and individuals dearly without proactive measures.

Eurasia Group Senior Analyst Ali Wyne moderated a discussion on cybersecurity as part of “Caught in the Digital Crosshairs,” a video series on cybersecurity produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft and the CyberPeace Institute. The discussion focused on the blurring lines between attacks on governments and the private sector.

Wyne spoke with Kaja Ciglic, senior director of digital diplomacy at Microsoft, who referred to cybersecurity as “the defining challenge of our times.” The wars in Ukraine and Gaza have coincided with spikes in both cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns, which Ciglic called “harrowing examples of what can happen and how people can use technology to manipulate others into actions.”

Even in peacetime, states are investing in capabilities that can target critical infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, preparing for a new dimension of conflict. And in the private sector, hackers are exploiting lagging private-sector preparedness to grow and evolve.

Hacking is big business, with companies specializing in helping clients break into accounts. While these are usually about making financial gains, says Stéphane Duguin, CEO of the Cyber Peace Institute, his organization has seen a marked shift over the past two years. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the institute has tracked a marked increase in attacks on humanitarian organizations, even those that have little to do with the conflict.

“At the end of the day, you end up having civilians who cannot benefit from essential services because of what has been escalated into another part of the world,” he said.

The attacks impact organizations more profoundly than one might think. Bonnie Leff, senior vice president of corporate security at MasterCard, said that when one suffers a cyber attack, “the impact to an NGO can really almost shut it down.” It leaves organizations unable to pay staff or run programs and can damage their reputation with donors, leaving them worse off in the long term.

More from Global Stage

Why the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are not on track to be financed soon

Why the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are not on track to be financed soon

The world faces a sustainable development crisis, and while most countries have strategies in place, they don’t have the cash to back them up. How far off track are we with the financing needed to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from quality education and health care to climate action and clean water?

Are markets becoming immune to disruptive geopolitics?

Are markets becoming immune to disruptive geopolitics?

There’s no escaping the intricate link between economics and geopolitics. Today, that link has become a crucial factor in investment decision-making, and who better to speak to that than Margaret Franklin, CEO of CFA Institute, a global organization of investment professionals? Franklin sat down with GZERO’s Tony Maciulis at a Global Stage event for the IMF-World Bank spring meetings this week.

AI at the tipping point: danger to information, promise for creativity

AI at the tipping point: danger to information, promise for creativity

Artificial intelligence is on everyone's mind these days. The potential for AI to mess up democracy is scary, but the truth is that it can also make the world a better place. So, are bots good or bad for us? We asked a few experts to weigh in during the Global Stage livestream conversation "Risks and Rewards of AI," hosted by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft at this year's World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

How to protect elections in the age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI

GZERO Media, on the ground at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, held a Global Stage discussion on Feb. 17 entitled “Protecting Elections in the Age of AI.” We spoke with Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Fiona Hill, senior fellow for the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Eva Maydell, an EU parliamentarian and a lead negotiator of the EU Chips Act and Artificial Intelligence Act; Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia; with European correspondent Maria Tadeo moderating. These thought leaders and experts discussed the implications of the rapid rise of AI amid this historic election year.

Why Africa's power partnership with the World Bank should attract investors

Why Africa's power partnership with the World Bank should attract investors

At the World Bank Group’s Spring Meetings this week, GZERO’s Tony Maciulis spoke to Lucy Heintz, Head of Energy Infrastructure at Actis Energy Fund, a global investment company focused on sustainability. Heintz expressed optimism in the announcement and explained the reasons why it could be attractive to investors.

How to tackle global challenges: The IMF & World Bank blueprint

How to tackle global challenges: The IMF & World Bank blueprint

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington have told a tale of two economies: In the developed world, inflation is falling, and recession looks unlikely. But many of the world’s poorest countries are struggling under tremendous debt burdens inflated by rising interest rates that threaten to undo decades of development progress. That means these key lenders of last resort have their work cut out for them. But according to GZERO Senior Writer Matthew Kendrick, there's a proven model.

Digital Equity