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Courtesy od Midjourney

The world is an inkblot

In 1921, a Swiss psychologist spent months carefully crafting a series of seemingly random blots of ink. When he was done, he arranged them in a set of 10 for publication.

He had discovered that different people saw different things in the inkblots and that this could tell him a lot about their mental state, their concerns, and their worldview.

I thought of Dr. Rorschach and his now-famous inkblots this week as I leafed through a massive new study of what people in a dozen of the world’s most powerful countries – the G7 industrialized democracies, plus Brazil, China, India, and South Africa – are worried about when it comes to their security.

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Why privacy is priceless
Why privacy is priceless | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Why privacy is priceless

If someone were to get a few pictures off your phone without your permission, what's the big deal, right? Don't be so blasé, says human rights attorney David Haigh, who was prominently targeted with the powerful Pegasus spyware in 2021.

"If someone breaches your private life, that is a gateway to very, very serious breaches of other human rights, like your right to life and right to all sorts of other things," he said. "That's why I think a lot of governments and public sector don't take things as seriously as they should."

Right now, he says, dictators can buy your privacy, "and with it, your life."

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How cyberattacks hurt people in war zones
How cyberattack immiserate people in war zones | Global Stage | GZERO Media

How cyberattacks hurt people in war zones

They may not be bombs or tanks, but hacks and cyberattacks can still make life miserable for people caught in the crosshairs of conflicts. By targeting key infrastructure and humanitarian organizations, warring governments can deny crucial services to civilians on the other side of no-man's-land.

And just like with conventional weapons, there can be collateral damage, said Stéphane Duguin, CEO of the Cyber Peace Institute. "We have 53 countries in the world targeted by these attacks across 23 sectors of critical infrastructure or essential services," he said. "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."

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Why snooping in your private life is big business
Why snooping in your private life is big business | Caught in the Digital Crosshairs | GZERO Media

Why snooping in your private life is big business

Kaja Ciglic, senior director of digital diplomacy at Microsoft, said, "cybersecurity is the defining challenge of our time" amid a spike in misinformation campaigns thanks to wars in Ukraine and Gaza, growing interest from governments in building cyberweapons, and plain old profit-motivated thieves.

"We are seeing private sector enterprises that, effectively, are selling services, products that allow their customers to break into, whether it's a personal account, whether it's into an organization's account," she said. "The cyber mercenary market that is also emerging is also a very strong concern for Microsoft."

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How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability
How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability | Global Stage | GZERO Media

How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability

Cyberattacks are about a lot more than just money these days. Both unscrupulous governments and extremist groups are increasingly using hacking to advance political aims, says Kaja Ciglic, senior director of digital diplomacy at Microsoft.

When the International Committee for the Red Cross or International Court of Justice experiences cyberattacks, she said, "These are all organizations that are trying to defend peace and stability, they're trying to advocate for all of our human rights." The fact that unscrupulous governments are spending taxpayer money to purchase tools that interrupt their work, she noted, is worth taking a stand against.

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The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them
The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them | Global Stage | GZERO Media

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.”

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Attacked by ransomware: The hospital network brought to a standstill by cybercriminals
Attacked by ransomware: The hospital network brought to a standstill by cybercriminals | GZERO Media

Attacked by ransomware: The hospital network brought to a standstill by cybercriminals

In October 2022, the second-largest nonprofit healthcare system in the US, CommonSpirit Health, was hit with a crippling ransomware attack. Kelsay Irby works as an ER nurse at a CommonSpirit hospital in Washington. She arrived at work after the malware had spread through the hospital network to chaos: systems were down, computers were running slowly or not at all, labs weren’t returning results, and nurses were charting vitals on pen and paper. Even basic things like knowing what medications patients were on or why they came into the emergency room were a challenge, putting lives at risk. The hospital’s nurses and doctors scrambled to manage this crisis for over two weeks until CommonSpirit Health was able to restore access to the IT network

“It was just kind of this perfect storm of very sick patients, not enough help, everybody was super frustrated,” Irby says, “My biggest fear during the whole cyberattack was that a patient was going to suffer because we couldn’t access the technology.”

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The threat of CEO fraud and one NGO's resilient response
The threat of CEO fraud and one NGO's resilient response | GZERO Media

The threat of CEO fraud and one NGO's resilient response

In January 2020, Heidi Kühn, founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, returned from an overseas trip to devastating news: her finance department had unwittingly transferred over $1 million to an unfamiliar bank account. Kühn and her team quickly realized they’d become victims of a CEO fraud cyber attack—cybercriminals had infiltrated the company’s email accounts via spear phishing and impersonated Kühn to trick the finance team into sending funds abroad.

The theft had an enormous impact on Roots of Peace, a nonprofit dedicated to converting minefields into arable farmland in former war zones. Following the attack, Roots of Peace reached out to the CyberPeace Insitute, an organization that provides free cybersecurity assistance, threat detection and analysis to NGOs and other critical sectors. Roots of Peace was able to recover some of the funds, but to date, only $175,000 of the $1.34 million total stolen has been returned.

Roots of Peace is an international humanitarian organization, but their story isn’t unusual: In 2021, CEO fraud caused $2.4 billion in losses to US businesses alone, according to the FBI Internet Crime Report. Kühn’s story is featured in the second episode of “Caught in the Digital Crosshairs: The Human Impact of Cyberattacks,” a new video series on cyber security produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft and the CyberPeace Institute. GZERO spoke with Kühn and Derek Pillar, a cyber security expert from Mastercard, to learn more about the threat of CEO fraud, the real-life impact of cyberattacks against the humanitarian sector, and how you can prevent similar attacks from happening to you and your organization.

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