Stuxnet. WannaCry. NotPetya. COVID-19 vaccine research hacks. Over the past several years, these major nation-sponsored cyberattacks have given us a sobering glimpse at how the internet can be compromised by cyberwarfare.

From the integrity of our elections and the stability of our global economy, to the sanctity of our hospitals, the rise of nation-backed cyberattacks has raised some real concerns. What if the power grid is breached? What about the water supply? Can our governments adequately respond to a large-scale cyberattack?

Digital Peace Now is dedicated to empowering the public to push their leaders to take action to curb cyberwarfare, but is the threat of cyberwarfare something the general public is even aware of?

Digital Peace Now’s newly released Citizens on Cyberattacks, our first international cyberwarfare awareness report, is the answer to that question. We polled six different countries (the United States, India, South Africa, Malaysia, Mexico, and France) to gauge current awareness of the dangers of nation-sponsored cyberattacks, and identify support for action at the international level to curb the threat. Digital Peace Now Society will commission an updated survey every year with PSB Research to track the evolving public perceptions and attitudes related to the issue over time.

What does the first Citizen on Cyberattacks report reveal? It signals that while the public may not be able to give the details of specific nation-sponsored cyberattacks, they are very much aware of cyberwarfare and overwhelmingly view it as a serious concern. As nations increase the sophistication and scale of cyberattacks, the general public is taking notice of the alarming number of attacks targeting critical infrastructures, such as elections, hospitals, medical research centers, financial institutions, and governments, and they are looking at their leaders to protect them. The public, recognizing that this global problem requires a global solution, has a growing interest in leaders across government, business, and civil society working together to address this threat.


Key Takeaways

  • 1 in 3 people have had a personal account hacked.
  • 84% of people consider the threat of cyberattacks to be on par with the threat of nuclear weapons.
  • 52% of people acknowledge that their own governments launch cyberattacks on other countries semi-regularly.
  • Cyberattacks against elections are among the most recognized types of digital threats.
  • 25%–50% of our routine healthcare tasks, including private telemedicine visits, occur online. At the same time, frequent cyberattacks are occurring in the healthcare space—even more so during COVID-19.
  • 3 in 4 people support the idea of their countries joining an international agreement with “rules of the road” around global cyberwarfare.

According to Raj Burli, Digital Peace Now’s new Global Ambassador:

“Any person with a stake in the internet needs to read this report right away. And look, that’s almost all of us. The statistics and data in ‘Citizens on Cyberattacks’ give a true look at, and meaningful snapshot of, the digital age in 2020. This report is for the global public, business leaders, governments, advocates, and changemakers alike. At Digital Peace Now, we believe the online world is to be celebrated and protected. It’s our community—it’s our place to connect, to live, to work. We can’t allow it to continue to be weaponized against us by nation-states that treat cyberspace as a battlefield.”