Living in the information age, we rely heavily on digital information. Every day, we use software and hardware to produce, transmit, and store digital information. Your medical records, banking information, and insurance information is stored in a server somewhere as digital information. Whenever you use a credit card online, or a service like Pay-Pal, you are transferring money using digital information. When you stream movies on your device, that media is transferred from the streaming service to your device in the form of digital information.

We rely on digital information so much. It has revolutionized our daily lives. But digital information, like everything else in this world, is vulnerable to threats. Digital information can be corrupted, interrupted , and stolen, with potentially disastrous effects. This is why cybersecurity is so important. Digital information affects every aspect of our lives, thus keeping it secure is of equal significance.

Cybersecurity affects our personal information

Identity theft cost US consumers 43 billion dollars in 2022 alone, with credit card fraud being the most common method of identity theft.

With online shopping so prominent, stealing our personal information has never been easier. Phishing attacks can trick users into giving away personal info. Spyware can make its way onto user’s machines, stealing passwords and credit card numbers through keylogging, and even watching users through their webcam. Weak passwords can result in accounts being compromised, and information stolen.

Other common ways of stealing info does not even target the consumer directly. Often, the servers that store our information are targeted. Databases of users’ passwords, card numbers, even social security numbers can be compromised and sold on the dark web.

Many times, these data breaches occur due to poor security practices. In 2017, credit company Equifax was hacked due to a vulnerability in one of their servers which remained unpatched, despite the fact that a patch was available. The result: millions of people’s Personally Identifying Information (PII), including social security numbers, were stolen by threat actors. The data collected during breaches such as this can be sold on the dark web and used to commit identity theft.

Cybersecurity affects our nation’s critical infrastructure

We all remember the 2021 Colonial Pipeline hack. It brought much of the South-East United States to a grinding halt, with gas lines and panic buying caused by widespread gas shortages. This was caused by Russian hackers, who were able to cause this widespread chaos due to basic security practices not being flaws: a lack of multi factor authentication, and a leaked password.

The attackers gained access to Colonial’s systems, encrypting their systems with ransomware, which brought much of the company’s operations to a halt. Security flaws resulted in gas shortages across the country.

It could have happened again. 

It was revealed in 2023 that Russian hackers came close to infiltrating a number of US power plants and natural gas facilities with malware shortly after the start of the War in Ukraine. Although this threat has been neutralized, the malware was, in the words of the CEO of cybersecurity firm Dragos, a “state-level, wartime capability” threat.

This leads to perhaps the most important part of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity affects our national security

If cybersecurity can affect personal finances, and critical infrastructure of our country, how much more important is it for our national security?

Nation state actors like Russia, China, and North Korea have invested mass sums of money into their cyber capabilities. The Director of National Intelligence assesses that China “almost certainly” is capable of disrupting American infrastructure using cyber attacks.

The War in Ukraine has shown just how influential cyber is in modern warfare. Cyberattacks, especially ransomware and DDoS attacks, have been used by both Russia and Ukraine to disrupt virtually every sector of the other side’s economy, including energy and financial sectors.

Cybersecurity affects our entire society

Computers aren’t going anywhere, and neither are the threats that seek to exploit them to hurt us. In fact, they are increasing. During the pandemic, cyberattacks increased by 300%, yet there are over three million open cybersecurity jobs worldwide.

The threats are increasing, and so are our vulnerabilities. Technology is becoming more powerful, and therefore more useful, and more dangerous. Cybersecurity must be a top priority for us, as individuals and as a society.