Russian-Ukrainian conflict has upped risk of cyberattacks
A lot is happening in the physical world in Eastern Europe, but many may not be aware of what is happening in the digital world.
The situation in Ukraine changes hourly, but right now hackers from both sides are engaged in a hybrid war leveraging both kinetic attacks and cyber- attacks to achieve their objectives. It’s no secret that we live in a world of constant digital threats to our nation, employers and even our personal data, but what do this conflict and future conflicts mean for our businesses and citizens?
Currently, both Ukrainian and Russian governments are fighting off hackers who are targeting government, financial and personal information. Cyberattacks during armed conflicts are usually aimed at disrupting systems, gathering intelligence or influencing perspectives to gain support for their cause. By disrupting key systems like communication, the attackers could get an advantage on the battlefield. As a result, both countries have reported outages involving important websites and services due to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
DDoS attacks are when an attacker leverages a large group of hacked machines under their control that interact with a service, such as a website, online banking, gaming or other web services, in a way that takes down the service. This can prevent citizens from getting key information from the government, which can be very damaging in a wartime situation.
Ukraine’s efforts to push back Russian invaders have recently included a global army of professional and underground IT volunteers. The country’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, issued a call for anyone with digital talents to join its “IT Army of Ukraine” and receive tasks using the Telegram platform.
This Ukrainian-endorsed group has amassed hundreds of thousands of volunteers globally. However, using a diverse group of people with mixed languages and skill sets is an extremely difficult task. Their effort to continue spreading awareness globally has been one of their key objectives, but they are also aimed at taking down targets and gathering information that can be leveraged by the military.
This unprecedented global task force needs to tread carefully, as actions from non-Ukrainian and non-Russian citizens could cause international issues within their own country.
In addition, the hacking group Anonymous has announced that it will focus its efforts against the Russian government and its supporters. One of the group’s biggest claims is that it is responsible for hacking several Russian TV and streaming platforms to display content on what is happening in Ukraine on two separate occasions.
The goal is to break the “digital Iron Curtain” in Russia and spread awareness from within the population. They have also claimed to have stolen and wiped sensitive data of various Russian organizations.
So, how could this digital conflict affect businesses and citizens in the United States and especially Hawaii? For one, the federal government, critical infrastructure operators and local government agencies are all preparing for possible retaliation for supporting Ukraine and imposing sanctions.
Although there are no credible threats at this time, collateral damage can still occur if attackers target Ukraine-related organizations. Organizations and businesses should take the necessary steps to prevent and recover from cyberattacks, including protecting systems, updating software, storing backups and having a plan in place
Like natural disasters, individuals should prepare for the impacts of this conflict on critical infrastructure and the supply chain. With every area of society integrated because of technology, having emergency supplies and enough rations to last for a time can help navigate through hard times. That said, the two most important things for people to do are to be cautious about where they’re getting information and to practice safe computer use.
People should be extra cautious in trusting information online and should avoid information sources that aren’t vetted or credible. Disinformation is a powerful tool in today’s digital age that is constantly leveraged by foreign actors. And with the 2022 elections rapidly approaching, voters should expect misinformation campaigns to begin with renewed vigor.
Scammers also will use current events to create fake relief organizations and sell fake items such as abandoned Russian tanks on online retail platforms, which is already starting to happen.
Computer users should practice secure computer use to stay vigilant. Keep your mobile devices and computers up to date, avoid installing unnecessary programs, use a unique password for your accounts, use a password manager so you don’t have to remember each unique password, and implement multifactor authentication. Cybercriminals will continue to target weak computer systems and poorly protected accounts.
We are witnessing unprecedented cyber activity stemming from the Russian- Ukrainian conflict, and the world should learn as many lessons as possible from this tragedy. Businesses and citizens should expect more attempts at cyber crime and take actions to protect themselves and their data.
Marc Masuno serves as director, business services and cloud architecture at Hawaiian Telcom. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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