Special Report

The World’s 30 Cyber Superpowers

Amid the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, cyber warfare has become one of the more closely watched developments by the international community. Late last month, Ukrainian military intelligence claimed Moscow was planning cyberattacks on its energy sector as well as those in neighboring Poland and the Baltic states.

If true, it would not be the first time Russia took aim at Ukraine in the cyber warfare space. From 2015 to 2017, Russia engaged in a series of cyberattacks against Ukraine, including one that disabled three power grids in the west of the country. While Russian cyber attacks against Ukraine have been in the news, other countries engage or at least develop their cyber power. 

“States continue to expand their capabilities to achieve multiple objectives in Cyberspace,” said the authors of the National Cyber Power Index 2022 from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. This year’s report updates the first Cyber Power Index released in 2020, and it expands the scope of what is used to measure a country’s cyber capabilities.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the National Cyber Power Index 2022 report to find how 30 countries rank in cyber power. The index consists of 29 indicators, including attributed cyber attacks, data protection laws, technical standards and internet governance, cyber research, cyber crime and enforcement, and more, using publicly available knowledge of cyber capabilities. 

These indicators are evaluated across eight objectives: financial, surveillance, intelligence, commerce, defense, information control, destructive, and norms. These measure a wide range of a country’s intent and capability in cyber warfare and defense to a country’s influence in establishing international norms and technical standards. Additional data came from the World Bank. (Also see, regions of the world where military power is concentrated.)

Since the index’s 2020 release, Russia moved into third place, after the United States and China, knocking the United Kingdom down a notch. Russia moved up thanks to its efforts in using cyber technology for commercial gains and for destructive capabilities. 

Russia’s adversary, Ukraine, climbed from 29th place in 2020 to 12th place in 2022, driven by increases in cyber defense, intelligence, and destructiveness. Iran joined the top 10 cyber superpowers this year, climbing from 22nd place in the less comprehensive 2020 report.

Countries often hide their true cyber capabilities, “particularly destructive, defensive and espionage capabilities and their reliance on domestic national security structures,” the report notes. “We suspect this is the case for most states in relation to covert or military capabilities, but specifically for China, Israel, Iran, and North Korea.” 

Among the 30 to cyber superpowers, the top-ranking objective of seven nations is surveillance. The top-ranking cyber objectives in the United States are intelligence gathering, destructiveness, control of the information environment, and establishing norms and technical standards. (The U.S. ranks No. 1 in many military powers. See, this is the country with the most nuclear weapons.)

Here are the world’s 30 cyber superpowers.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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