The US government is working with companies to ensure they are prepared for a Russian cyberattack. But what can you do?
The cyberwar surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine is heating up as Russian soldiers and tanks lay siege to the country.
Now experts are bracing for the possibility of these cyberattacks coming here and making sure America’s businesses and consumers are ready. Taking steps to prevent being subjected to such an attack might be easier than people think, experts told MarketWatch.
A week before Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched troops to his neighboring country, a cyberattack hit a number of Ukrainian government websites and banks, according to the Associated Press. Ukrainian officials suspect that Russia is behind the incident. Earlier this month, CNN reported that officials from several US agencies met with US bank executives to discuss how to respond to Russian cybercriminals, according to people familiar with the meeting.
As the ground attack intensified this week, a Twitter TWTR,
Account linked to the hacking collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for a series of attacks, including one on RT, a state-funded Russian media outlet that the US State Department had previously described as part of Russia’s “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”
Back on American soil, President Joe Biden warned Thursday, “If Russia tracks cyberattacks on our businesses, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond.” Government officials have been working with the private sector for months “to strengthen their cyber defenses and sharpen our ability to respond to Russian cyberattacks as well,” Biden said.
“Last month, the US Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security, a federal agency reporting to the Department of Homeland Security, issued an alert.”
Last month, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a federal agency reporting to the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning: “In the past, Russian state-sponsored Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors have used common but effective tactics – including spear phishing, brute -Force and exploit known vulnerabilities against weak security accounts and networks – to gain initial access to target networks.”
“Russian state-sponsored APT actors have also demonstrated sophisticated commercial and cyber capabilities by compromising third-party infrastructure, compromising third-party software, or developing and deploying custom malware,” she added. “The actors have also demonstrated the ability to maintain persistent, undetected, long-term access in compromised environments – including cloud environments – by using legitimate credentials.”
America’s largest chipmaker has reportedly been hit by a cyberattack, the company announced on Friday. A spokesman for Nvidia told MarketWatch it was “investigating an incident” but said its “business and trading activities are continuing uninterrupted. We are still working to assess the nature and scope of the event and have no additional information to share at this time.”
“If the government is working with companies to ensure they’re prepared for anything that tries to hollow out internet service or shut down operations, what should people be doing to prepare?”
Markets surged higher on Friday afternoon on news that Russia was open to talks with Ukraine’s leadership, even as Russian forces set their sights on Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. On Sunday night, however, US stock index futures tumbled after Putin raised Russia’s nuclear alert level after he imposed new Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But if the government is working with companies to ensure they’re prepared for anything that tries to hollow out internet service or shut down operations, what should people do to prepare? That’s important given how the pandemic has deepened our reliance on the internet for banking, shopping and work, experts say.
At least nine federal agencies and 100 private companies have recently been compromised by cyberattacks. Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, told a news conference last year: “The intelligence community is looking into who is responsible for this. Until this study is complete, I will use the language we used previously, implying that an advanced, persistent threat actor, likely of Russian origin, was responsible.”
If new Russian-related malware initially targets Ukraine, “that’s not necessarily something that can be contained in Ukraine,” said Lisa Plaggemier, interim executive director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, a nonprofit organization. And even if there isn’t a Russian-backed cyberattack, garden-type cybercriminals could try to take advantage of the moment.
How to protect your personal information online:
• Be on the lookout for “phishing” emails that try to trick a person into clicking. “If there’s a way to have us socially manipulated with headlines because we’re all affected, they’ll take advantage of that,” Plaggemier said.
“Watch out for suspicious activity that asks you to do something immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or requires your personal information. Think before you click. When in doubt, DO NOT click on it,” according to the federal government‘s website, Ready.gov.
• Users should use multi-factor authentication passwords to gain access to important accounts, Plaggemier said. This includes financial accounts, but also social media accounts. “Yes, multi-factor authentication takes a few extra seconds, but it prevents a world of harm,” she said.
Accordingly, consumers really should consider a password manager if they haven’t already. Using one isn’t as difficult as consumers might think, as it stores more passwords and remembers them along the way, she said.
• Consider backing up important information to an encrypted file or to a device such as an external hard drive. Cloud-based services are also a good option, said Plaggemier.
• Constantly update operating systems on computers and mobile apps. “If Russia exploits a vulnerability in the next few days or weeks, everyone will rush to create a patch,” she said, adding that it’s a good idea to log out of websites and accounts to allow updates to run.
In Neuberger’s words during last year’s White House briefing, “In the United States, as we are structured, public-private partnership must be a core component of national cyber defenses. So there is an active two-way exchange going on: the government sharing its insights with private sector companies – both compromised ones and those with more visibility – and with private sector companies sharing their insights to ensure that together we can Capturing and scaling what happened.”