Although it might not seem apparent at first, climate change and the cybersecurity crisis share some striking similarities. Both are becoming a serious threat to organizations and individuals across the world and if we don’t do anything to stop them, the consequences could be beyond repair. However, there’s a lot more to it than that.
Extreme weather events such as tornados, tsunamis, and food problems can deal severe damage to security infrastructure and increase the risks of successful cyberattacks. At the same time, cybercriminals can exploit these events by pretending to be charities collecting donations in the wake of disasters. This gives them a chance to steal personal information and exploit their unknowing victims in identity theft as well.
What’s the Link Between Climate Change and Cybersecurity?
Climate change and the cybersecurity crisis seem to be the two most pressing problems the planet is facing right now. While they can be seen as separate concerns, there are many areas where they meet and affect each other.
One way cybersecurity affects climate change and adds to global warming is through actual computing which entails energy consumption and encourages thermal emissions. Since we still can’t produce enough renewable energy to meet our electricity demands, the energy used in computing continues to add to climate change.
At the same time, extreme weather events caused by climate change are sabotaging cybersecurity efforts to keep users safe from cybercrime. For instance, a hurricane can damage critical security infrastructure and disrupt services that many users depend on or leave them without additional layers of security. If the supply chain is successfully attacked, cybercriminals can tamper with otherwise trusted software and steal the organization’s sensitive data. As supply chain attacks are on the rise, the situation is going from bad to worse.
Organizations that possess plenty of resources and strong cybersecurity capabilities can rapidly respond to these sudden challenges without leaving security gaps and exposing their users to cyber threats. However, many companies lack the resources and capacity needed to act efficiently in case of catastrophic weather events leaving weak spots that could be exploited by hackers.
It seems that these two threats to our planet—and our cybersecurity—have been working together.
What Are the Effects of Climate Change on Cybersecurity?
Since our primary concern is cybersecurity, let’s dive deeper into the consequences of climate change on the safety of all our online (and offline) activities.
IT Infrastructure and Extreme Weather Events
As one might expect, extreme weather events can result in extensive damage to physical IT infrastructure such as data centers, servers, and other critical systems. Besides leading to internet connectivity or other service disruption, physical damage to IT infrastructure can offer opportunities for cybercriminals to hack their way into the organization’s systems. If they do, they could steal sensitive data for profit and smear the organization’s reputation in the process.
Green Energy Industry as a Top Target for Cybercriminals
The rise of cyberattacks targeting it is one of the strongest signs that the green energy sector is growing. As they are becoming the backbone of economic activities, renewable energy systems are starting to be an attractive target for all sorts of cybercriminals. Meanwhile, one failure in energy infrastructure could lead to a blackout with catastrophic consequences.
For example, in 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported that multiple Germany-based wind-energy companies were hit with a wave of politicly-motivated hacks causing thousands of turbines to shut down. In this instance, a hacker managed to inject malware into industrial equipment and manipulate the machines. However, this is only one of the many ways this sector could be sabotaged.
Since this sector relies on a complex and widespread infrastructure, safeguarding its surface area from cyberattacks can be a challenge.
Renewable Energy and the Rise of New Cyber Risks
As the renewable energy industry gets bigger, so do the cyber risks. Even without the renewable twist, the energy industry is a top target for cybercriminals, whether they’ll looking to deploy ransomware, steal classified or otherwise sensitive data, or sabotage systems to shut down power. A rapid transition to green energy could leave new resources with extra security gaps for cybercriminals to exploit. And yes, hackers can do a lot with your data, so you are always a target!
Climate Change Scams
We’re not saying climate change science is a scam—far from it. We’re talking about the scammers who are trying to manipulate the public and make a profit by using the feeling of urgency that follows subjects such as climate change.
These scammers often use fake charities or pose as real charities to exploit people’s compassion and desire to donate to charitable projects. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a warning about scams that are using their name illegally.
In addition to money, many scammers are trying to get their hands on personal information, so they can sell it for profit or abuse it in another way.
Climate Crisis and Cybercrime: How Can We Combat These Twin Threats?
Technology plays a critical role in the fight against climate change by supporting us to reshape the infrastructure and systems required to create a sustainable society. But it’ll take more than green energy to combat cyber threats. Here are a few ways to overpower this twin threat to cybersecurity—for best results, all five should be employed together.
- Regular risk assessments: Once potential threats are found and identified, an organization can create a proper incident response and stay prepared.
- Contingency planning: By creating contingency plans, organizations can be sure they’re prepared for potential climate-related disruptions and disasters while staving off cybercriminals.
- Spreading awareness of climate-related threats: Combining an awareness campaign with actual training can create a culture of cybersecurity.
- Tech investments: These cybersecurity tech solutions should tackle climate-related cyber risks while reducing energy consumption.
- Keep up with technology trends: It’s smart to keep an eye out for new technologies that can enhance cybersecurity and reduce cyber risks.
If you want to do something for your planet but aren’t sure where to start, we suggest you check out apps that can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
Looking to the Future
At the end of the day, while a new approach to cybersecurity can’t erase the consequences of climate change, it can apply proper measures and mitigate the damage done to organizations, individuals, and society as a whole.
Perhaps it can even slow down the advance of global warming and withdraw opportunities for those in cybercrime to take advantage of the chaos caused by climate change.