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Sam Jayne / Axios

As governments, corporations, and hospitals around the world struggle to get back up and running after a string of recent ransomware attacks, scientists in Israel have uncovered another effect of cyber attacks: mass psychological distress.

  • The Financial Times reported the study's findings, which showed that participants' levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — increased after experiencing simulated cyber attacks.
  • Why it matters: The goal of hacks is generally to target institutions, not individuals, but this study indicates that cyber attacks can be as potent as terrorism in causing widespread fear.
  • The researchers wrote: "To accomplish this end, one need not commit horrific acts of murder. In a modern society it is enough attack the foundations of everyday life."
  • It's personal: Political scientists at the University of Haifa in Israel tested cortisol levels in participants' saliva after subjecting them to cyber attacks via computers and personal cell phones. "The text message to the participants' cell phones cemented the feeling among participants that they were the target of the cyberattack, not the lab computer," the study said.
  • The lasting damage: Researchers also found that subjects who had undergone the experiment were more fearful about the prospect of a cyber attack against Israel than those who had participated in the control group. Being exposed to cyber attacks once seemed to significantly increase panic about a repeat attack.
  • Focus on individuals: The study urged cyber security researchers to focus on the personal impact of attacks in addition to the national impact. The psychological stress of cyber attacks could affect individuals' decision-making, leading to "militant and aggressive attitudes" in the population, researchers said.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

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