Global Cyber War: What is at stake?

The Russian military invasion of Ukraine has begun with missiles striking just outside the capital, Kyiv, in the early morning hours on February 24th. While this event marks the beginning of military involvement in the campaign against Ukraine, Russian-sponsored hackers have been bombarding Ukrainian websites and infrastructure for the past few weeks in preparation for the invasion. The cyberattacks targeted the Ukrainian Parliament’s website and several state-sponsored banks in an effort to destabilize the country. The warning “Be afraid and expect the worse” was left on multiple websites following the initial cyberattacks.

These recent geopolitical escalations have left many wondering, how bad could modern-day cyber war be? Russia stifled the Ukrainian economy by disabling all their state-owned banks and spread panic across the country by targeting other websites. Unfortunately, this is not as bad as it gets when it comes to the effects of a cyber war.

The effects of Cyber War:

In 2021 The U.S saw firsthand what critical infrastructure could be impacted by a cyber war. In Oldsmar, Florida, a water treatment facility was targeted by an unknown hacker who modified the lye levels in the water to toxic levels. Luckily, a worker at the facility noticed the changes and corrected them immediately. Had he not, millions of people would have risked consuming dangerously tainted drinking water. Another example of critical infrastructure being impacted was when Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack, disrupting the largest fuel supplier for the Southeastern part of the United States. U.S. citizens from Texas to Virginia saw the impacts of this attack firsthand as the fuel shortage caused by the cyberattack sent gas prices skyrocketing and left many across that region without fuel.

Prepare for the worst:

Cyber-attacks of this nature are becoming more and more common as this marks the fifth major breach of a U.S company in the past six months. Cyber criminals are beginning to utilize RaaS or Ransomware As A Service model to expand their operations by licensing their software out to other malicious actors who Countries across the globe need to be prepared for impending cyberattacks in the coming weeks. Many members of NATO have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in an attempt to punish them for escalations along the Ukrainian border. These sanctions could prove to be motivation for more state-sponsored hackers to take up their keyboards in retaliatory efforts against NATO countries. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have released a warning for businesses and countries to be on high alert for malicious cyber activity.

The FBI, NSA, and CISA recommendations for companies are as follows:

  • Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • Enforce strong and unique passwords for all users.
  • Enable M365 Unified Audit Logs.
  • Implement endpoint detection and response tools.

In conclusion, organizations and countries worldwide must prepare themselves for escalated cyberattacks in the next few weeks. Treat every disturbance or instance of unusual activity as a potential threat and investigate thoroughly. Inform all employees that they should also be hyper-vigilant during this time of unrest and be mindful of any suspicious emails or activity within their environment.

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