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The Cyber Component of the Ukraine Conflict

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When two nations are in conflict in a part of the world known for the origination of cyberattacks, it’s no surprise that cyber warfare is happening alongside the physical conflict. And so it is, and will no doubt continue.

Cyber warfare may seem less significant in comparison to the images we’ve seen of real human suffering, but it is also a vital component of that suffering, especially when medical facilities and government institutions are targeted and are unable to provide desperately-needed services. Here’s a recap of what’s happened so far, what the near future might hold, and what it means for U.S. businesses:

Concurrent with the physical invasion, Russia unleashed a number of cyberattacks targeting the banking system and government in Ukraine. Moving well beyond ransomware, these attacks were designed to destroy data, not hold it hostage. Government websites were also targeted – and taken offline in some cases – by DDoS attacks. And there was a psychological component, with some Ukrainians receiving text messages stating that ATMs weren’t working, which was not true. Meanwhile, Russia laughably denies ever conducting malicious operations in cyberspace.

The immediate issue comes in our interconnectedness, as some contractors in other nations who have a business presence in Ukraine have been affected by these attacks.

Stateside, the larger concern is that Russia might target the United States in a larger series of attacks in response to economic sanctions (one report, which the White House denies, says that President Biden has been presented with a series of options for going on offense with cyberattacks against Russia).

For now, extra vigilance is in order for American businesses. The good news, such as it is, is that the increasing threat of ransomware over the past several years has collectively forced us into better cyber habits and stronger defenses. Now is the time to double down on those practices.

Always good advice, but never more important than now:

  • Patch all software, even if it’s old and not used any more.
  • Lock down your network to the greatest degree possible. Look with a fresh eye for any weaknesses.
  • Communicate with your team. Make sure the front-line workers understand the increased threat and the need for greater vigilance.
  • Have a plan to respond to an incident, and test it. Remember that beyond ransomware, you must be prepared for data destruction. Make sure everyone understands their role in the response plan.

Let’s hope that the conflict is brief and does not escalate into a larger war of either kind: traditional or cyber. But as the saying goes, “Expect the best, prepare for the worst.”

Questions about cybersecurity for your business? Contact Hill Tech Solutions.

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