Today, there is talk everywhere about the promises and dangers of artificial intelligence. But for many low-income families, communities of color, military veterans, people with disabilities, and immigrant communities, AI is a back-burner issue. Their daily concerns revolve around caring for their health, navigating the economy, pursuing educational opportunities, and defending democracy. But their concerns are also amplified by advanced, persistent and targeted cyberattacks.
Cyber operations are relentless, growing in scaleand exacerbate existing inequalities in health care, economic opportunity, access to education, and democratic participation. And when these pillars of society become unstable, the consequences ripple through national and global communities. Taken together, cyberattacks have serious and long-term impacts on communities already on the margins of society. These attacks are not just a technological concern: they represent a growing civil rights crisis, disproportionately dismantling the safety of vulnerable groups and reinforcing systemic barriers of racism and classism. The United States currently lacks an assertive response to deter the continued weaponization of cyber operations and to ensure digital access, equity, participation, and safety for marginalized communities.
Cyberattacks on hospitals and healthcare organizations doubled in 2023, affecting more than 39 million people in the first half of 2023. A cyberattack in late November at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, caused a system-wide shutdown. causing ambulances to be diverted and life-saving surgeries to be cancelled.. These attacks impact patients’ trust in healthcare systems, which may make them more reluctant to seek care, further jeopardizing the health and safety of already vulnerable populations.
The scale and prevalence of these attacks undermine public trust, especially among communities of color who already have deep-seated fears about our healthcare systems. He Study on untreated syphilis now condemned in Tuskegee, where researchers denied treatment to black men without their knowledge or consent to observe the long-term effects of the disease, ended just 52 years ago. However, the study created a legacy of suspicion and mistrust in the medical community that continues today, leading to a decline in the life expectancy of black men and Lower participation in medical research among African Americans. The aggravating fact that Black women are three to four times more likelyand American Indian and Alaska Native women are twice as likelyDying from pregnancy-related causes that white women only increases mistrust.
The erosion of trust also extends to low-income people. More than a million young patients at Lurie Children’s Surgical Foundation in Chicago had their names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth exposed in a violation from August 2023. The hospital treats more Medicaid-insured children—an indicator of financial hardship—than any other hospital in Illinois. Once breached, a child’s personal data could be used to commit identity fraud, severely damaging credit, jeopardizing financial aid for education, and denying employment opportunities. While it is difficult for anyone, children from financially insecure homes are the least prepared to absorb or overcome these economic setbacks.
Identity theft isn’t the only way cyberattacks take advantage of tough times. Cyberattacks also target financially vulnerable people and are becoming more sophisticated. In Maryland, hackers targeted Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (used to provide public assistance funds for food) to steal more than $2 million in 2022 and the first months of 2023. That’s an increase of more than 2,100 percent compared to the $90,000 in EBT funds stolen in 2021. income limit to qualify for the government food assistance program It’s $39,000 for a family of four in 2024, and only if they have less than $2,001 in their bank account. Unlike a credit card, which legally protects against fraudulent charges, EBT cards do not have fraud protection. Efforts to help victims are plagued by red tape: refunds are capped to two months of stolen benefits, and only within a specific time period.
Cybercriminals also target vulnerable populations, especially older age groups. Since the last report in 2019, 40 percent of Asian Pacific Islander desi Americans (APIDA) ages 50 and older have reported experiencing financial fraud, and one-third of those victims lost an average of $15,000. Of 2018 through 2023, The Chinese Embassy Scam robocalls delivered automated messages and combined caller ID spoofing, a method by which scammers disguise the information they display on their phones, targeting Chinese immigrant communities. This resulted in More than 350 victims in 27 US states and financial losses averaging $164,000 per victim for a total of $40 million.. And for five years, this scam only he continued. As these scams evolve, groups are now faced with increasingly sophisticated AI-assisted calls, where Scammers use technology to convincingly imitate the voices of loved ones.further exploiting vulnerabilities, particularly among older adults, many of whom live on fixed incomes or live with economic insecurity.
While social movements have fought to promote economic equity, cybercriminals undermine these efforts by exacerbating financial vulnerabilities. Since the 1960s The Cause movement advocate for the rights of migrant workers to the poor people’s campaign By mobilizing across racial lines, activists have worked to dismantle systemic barriers, end poverty, and push for fair wages. However, current attacks on financial systems often target the very groups these movements seek to empower, perpetuating the disparities their advocates have fought against. Digital scams and fraud incidents disproportionately affect those least prepared to recover, including victims of natural disasters, people with disabilities, older adults, young adults, military veterans, immigrant communitiesand lower income families. By stealing essential resources, cybercriminals compound the difficulties of those already struggling to make ends meet or those experiencing some of the worst hardships of their lives, pushing groups to a more marginal level.
Access to education
Education is another area where cybercrime has skyrocketed. One of the worst tricks of 2023 It exploited a flaw in a file transfer software called MOVEit that multiple government entities, nonprofits, and other organizations use to manage data across systems. This includes the National Student Information Center, which serves 3,600 universities, representing 97 percent of college students in the US, to provide verification information to academic institutions, student loan providers and employers.
Attacks on educational systems are devastating at all levels. One of the main targets of ransomware attacks last year was K-12 schools. While complete data is not yet available, by August 2023 ransomware attacks (where hackers lock an organization’s data and demand payment for its release) It affected at least 48 US school districts, three more than in all of 2022. Schools already have limited resources and cybersecurity can be expensive, so many have few defenses against sophisticated cyberattacks.