Is the medical information of political elites at increasing risk from strategically motivated cyberattacks?

  • Khlood AlShkeili

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis

    Abstract

    This thesis investigates the relative risks associated with strategically motivated cyberattacks targeting medical records of political elites. The problem under consideration is commensurate with the more general rising threats operating through cybersecurity at the global level as information-based technology becomes ever more important modern societies and almost everything they do. This includes including how countries store confidential medical information of their political elites. Therefore, the importance of this thesis is that that it addresses and seeks to analyze an emerging threat: the malicious theft of confidential medical information of political elites and all the follow-on consequences that this may cause for the targeted state and their leadership. In particular, this thesis aims at better understanding and evaluating the threat of strategically motivated cyberattacks targeting medical records of political elites and therefore the corresponding risk. In sum, it seeks to address the question of whether analysts, policymakers and cybersecurity professionals should consider this threat a high risk or a low one? To drive this research forward, the following research question has been developed: Is the medical information of political elites at increasing risk from strategically motivated cyberattacks? The descriptive and predictive nature of the research question makes it highly relevant for policy and cybersecurity challenges. To answer this research question, this thesis will probe the plausibility of three main hypotheses developed from a close reading of the cybersecurity literature. These are as follows. H1: Medical information of political elites is vulnerable to cyberattacks because the scale of the threat is underappreciated and, as a consequence, existing protective measure are inadequate; H2: Developments in offensive cyber capabilities combined with the changes in how medical information is stored means the risk of espionage in this domain is increasing. H3: The consequences of cyberattacks targeting medical information of political elites is likely to vary depending on the political and cultural settings. In order to probe the plausibility of these hypotheses, my thesis has developed and advances a novel risk assessment methodology that can be employed to gauge the risks associated to target states posed by strategically motivated cyberattacks against political elites' medical information. Over time, this methodology can be used in the future by others to judge whether the threat and corresponding risks facing states and their political systems is increasing or not. The remainder of the thesis describes how the research question will be answered. It consists of details about the proposed research methodology, ethical considerations, the expected results, and the potential usage of the study's findings.
    Date of AwardDec 2020
    Original languageAmerican English

    Keywords

    • Security risks assessment
    • cyber espionage
    • cyber threat
    • medical information.

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