Technology Record - Issue 31: Winter 2023

133 PUBLIC SECTOR control of their IT systems with the help of Microsoft technology, their experiences give a small insight into the extent of the cyber warfare being waged on government agencies around the world. In fact, the Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2023 found that 53 per cent of the “dramatically increasing” number of cyberattacks in more than 100 countries and territories were focused specifically on critical infrastructure and government organisations. “Governments are prime targets for ransomware and nation state attacks because they hold a lot of valuable data and they operate the critical infrastructure and services that keep countries running and people safe and healthy,” says Kirk Arthur, worldwide government solutions lead at Microsoft, who previously led data breach investigations for the US Secret Service. “They’re also plagued by challenges such as patched and siloed legacy IT systems, insufficient password control and authentication policies, limited financial resources, and a lack of personnel with the skills and knowledge to implement robust cybersecurity measures.” Governments must strengthen their defences to combat such attacks because they compromise far more than just devices, data and networks; they endanger the public and pose serious risks to society. “Attacks on critical infrastructure such as power grids, transport networks, water supply or healthcare systems can paralyse governments, preventing them from delivering the vital services that keep citizens safe and healthy and enable society to function well,” says Arthur. “This can cause widespread disruption and lead to significant financial and reputational costs to government agencies.” Cyberattacks also lead to significant financial loss. Research firm Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that cybercrime will cost the global economy $8 trillion in 2023 and predicts this figure could rise to around $10.5 trillion by 2025. In addition, breaches cause reputational damage, eroding the confidence and trust citizens have in governments to operate cost effectively and handle their personal data safely and responsibly. “Governments rely on citizens’ personal data to power many of their services, but few will be willing to provide this information if they are concerned their privacy will be breached,” says Arthur. “Consequently, it’s crucial governments “No technology provider can overcome cybersecurity challenges on its own; we need all hands on deck”