cyberattacksFederal agencies and cybersecurity experts are warning business owners to stay on high alert for cyberattacks after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The US Department of Homeland Security previously issued a warning on January 22, 2022, about the potential increased risk of cyberattacks for US agencies and businesses when there was a threat of invasion. Sadly, that threat of invasion recently became a reality.

It might not seem immediately obvious how an invasion of a country half a world away could spark a cybersecurity risk for US businesses. It’s a complex story that goes back many years. Cyberattacks are a critical weapon for Russia as a power point for global domination and defense.

The Department of Homeland Security detailed in a recent intelligence brief, “Russia’s cyber program is a key element of its broader view and military doctrine…Moscow’s cyber operations are designed to provide flexible options that can be used in both peacetime and wartime to achieve desired end states…Russia almost certainly considers cyber attacks an acceptable option to respond to adversaries.” Russian hackers and the Russian nation invest heavily in cyber warfare. Their cyber weapons are innovative and effective, posing a huge risk to US public and private sectors.

Russia has targeted US businesses, systems, and infrastructure for years. Some recent headlines featuring the work of Russian hackers include the Colonial Pipeline and Solarwinds hacks. Colonial Pipeline’s ransomware attack disturbed everyday life with gas shortages along the East Coast. The Solarwinds hack infected thousands of federal and private networks using a software upgrade from a trusted vendor. Russian cyberthreats are very advanced and continue to be a very high risk!

Current Threats to US Businesses from Russia

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine includes actively targeting the Ukrainian government, the country’s infrastructure, and their banks. Cybersecurity professionals are seeing cutting-edge cyber weapons used to target Ukraine. It’s only a matter of time before these same threats target US businesses and infrastructure. Russian cyberattacks have targeted the US for a long time. As the US implements sanctions against Russia, cybersecurity specialists expect cyberattacks will increase in retaliation.

What kind of defenses do we have from these attacks? Unfortunately, we remain at higher risk because we have a patchwork of cybersecurity protocols in place. There’s no centralized and unified cyber security strategy for US federal agencies and businesses. A business’s cybersecurity protocols are privately managed by that business. Your risk is solely determined by the cybersecurity strategy for your business. Now is the time to reinforce your security, patching up all possible vulnerabilities.

Practical Cybersecurity Recommendations to Implement Immediately

There are simple steps that every business can follow to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. If you choose to ignore the risks, you are leaving your business vulnerable in today’s elevated threat environment. The following is not a comprehensive list but it is a very good start.

  1. Be hypervigilant about suspicious email activity, alerting your IT teams and business leadership of any unusual activity
  2. Implement geo-blocking of non-US traffic and websites whenever possible
  3. Require multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible, especially for VPN access and privileged data access
  4. Disable remote desktop protocol (RDP) access externally and internally when possible
  5. Keep VPNs updated to ensure the latest software patches and security configurations are active
  6. Ensure endpoint protection is installed and active, preferably a next-generation antivirus with zero-day threat AI learning capabilities
  7. Consistently review administrative accounts, removing any unused or expired accounts, and change passwords routinely with complex passwords
  8. Consistently review all user accounts and deactivate any inactive users
  9. Maintain fully automated backups which are stored both onsite and in a secure offsite cloud environment
  10. Install an email SPAM filter for all business email accounts
  11. Provide ongoing cybersecurity awareness training for your entire team

Protecting Your Business as Geopolitical Tensions Escalate

Both Russia and Ukraine are thousands of miles away, but the impact of this invasion will reverberate throughout the world. Our day-to-day lives may not be significantly impacted, but it’s more important than ever to stay on high alert for cyberattacks from Russian hackers.

Every business in the US is at risk, no matter the size. The worst stories I hear from business owners are when they fell victim to ransomware, or another cyberattack for reasons that were entirely preventable. They lost clients and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for no reason other than some greedy hackers preying on unsuspecting people. It’s not very complicated or costly to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity for your business. In fact, it’s a necessary step to protect your business from hackers who are determined to break down everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.