Cybersecurity experts: everyone should be taking precautions

Global cyber attack may not be finished yet
Posted at 3:00 AM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 11:00:14-05

BOISE, Idaho — As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, cyber-attacks and cybersecurity concerns both in Ukraine and here at home do too.

Russia is known for its cyber-attacks and has already carried out this type of attack on Ukraine. With the US and other countries around the world continuing to put harsher sanctions in place, experts say Russia's target of these cyberattacks could shift.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said there are currently no specific or credible cyber threats to the US right now, but the agency says American businesses should still take steps to protect themselves.

Russia's history of cyber attacks

"For over 20 years, we've been in a cyberwar. I would call it more of a cold war until recently and it's becoming hotter and hotter," Edward Vasko, the Director of the BSU Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity, said.

Russia hasn't kept this cyberwar cold with every country.

"There have been attacks against Estonia and its banking system about a decade ago," Vasko said.

The goal behind these cyberattacks is to disrupt daily life.

"The goal that Russia has by attacking the financial systems and by attacking other critical infrastructure of Ukraine is to really disable the average Ukrainians ability to access their electronic banking, to be able to go get medical services, to be able to live their daily lives as electronic citizens," Vasko said.

The risk in the US

A policy expert says Russia could shift it's goals with these cyber attacks.

"It seems that they're using the cyber capabilities to cause panic and disruption domestically in the Ukraine population as a whole, not so much as a major economic, military weapon yet. But of course, they're signaling that they have that in reserve as an option," Peter Cowhey, the former Dean of the School of Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego said.

Experts say Russia focuses its cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, like power grids, banking systems, communication networks, oil and gas pipelines and water treatment facilities

Russia also weaponizes the spread of disinformation, with the goal of interrupting citizens' daily lives...And affecting their awareness of what's going on and how it impacts them.

While this conflict is just in Ukraine right now, Vasko said, "Russia could easily sit within its own environment--within its own country--and attack us at will and does."

This is why experts, including Vasko, are urging caution.

"From our perspective within the united states, we have to be--I would say--even more diligent because unlike a kinetic war with bombs and missiles and guns and tanks, Russia could easily sit within its own environment within its own country and attack us at will," he said.

Experts are urging large corporations, government agencies and everyday people to take precautions.

Here in the gem state, Idaho power says "We have security protocols and tools in place, as well as an internal team, to identify and mitigate threats."

Vasko says while the US is better equipped for this threat than the country was a decade ago, there's still cause for concern.

"We have very strong defenses from a federal perspective. And even with the strength of defenses we have, there are still avenues of attack," he said.

Some may think Idaho would be safe from a cyber attack. That bigger cities would be a more obvious target, but Vasko said this isn't the case.

"Size or rural versus urban, east coast versus west coast. All of that goes by the wayside because we're connected to the internet," he said. "The old adage is that every chain is only as strong as its weakest link."

Vasko said rural areas can be the most vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they may not have adequate cybersecurity resources.

Prevention tips

Every day people also play an important part in protecting the US.

"I would say the best way for you to be able to help is to ensure that you're not--you know you're being very diligent about the types of emails you're opening," he said.

This is because opening phishing emails can leave you vulnerable to malware or ransomware attacks that can then spread.

Experts also recommend being careful of who you're donating to if you're looking to support Ukrainian refugees, do your research and only give money to well-known organizations.

Other cybersecurity tips to keep in mind include, being cautious of social media links and scams, keeping software and computer operating systems up to date and using multi-factor authentication.

You can find more cybersecurity tips by clicking here.