Cybercriminals love pandemics, natural disasters, and wars. Global distractions are good for their business.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine elevates cybersecurity risks, which already weighed on the minds of global business leaders. So far, the incursion has delivered new distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and a novel malware, Hermetic Wiper. "
While most attacks have targeted Ukraine’s government, infrastructure, and financial services, U.S. companies need to be on guard. The US/British-owned insurance broker AON was attacked on Feb. 25, 2022, just one day after the invasion, although no connection to Russia has been reported.
On March 21, 2022, President Joe Biden encouraged CEOs to strengthen their cybersecurity. For some time, the administration has warned that Russia may be planning a “consequential” cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure and companies. Officials have seen “preparatory activity” that suggest these attacks may be imminent.
Business leaders around the world did not need this war to stir their anxieties about cyberattacks. The Allianz Risk Barometer, which surveys over 2,650 risk management experts around the world, identified cyber risk as the number-one threat to global businesses for 2022. The second highest-rated concern was a business interruption, which can result from a catastrophic cyberattack. That means companies worry more about potential data breaches, ransomware attacks, and major IT outages than supply chain disruptions, COVID-19, or natural disasters.
Not being able to provide products and services on time—or at all—is a frightening prospect. Business interruptions can have long-lasting and even fatal impacts for some companies.
Commitment to business continuity relies on powerful cybersecurity systems and exacting protocols. These include the installation of anti-malicious software and its updates, the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA), VPNs, and real-time, 24/7 monitoring to detect and mitigate cyber intrusions.
In addition, employees need extensive cybersecurity training so they understand how to do their part to prevent breaches. They need to know the latest attack schemes and to be extra vigilant with emails. Ninety-six percent of successful attacks come from clicking on the wrong email.
Because data transfer presents a vulnerability, companies should develop a vendor risk assessment program for all third parties that can access their data, networks, and servers. In a digital age, companies need to be as concerned about their partners’ cybersecurity practices as they are about their own.
Hopefully, the war in Ukraine will not provoke massive cyberattacks, but now is the time to secure your perimeters. To help you tell if your organization is as secure as it can be, here’s a checklist gleaned from Palo Alto Networks and the Shields Up site from the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
- Implement multi-factor authentication on your accounts.
- Lockdown your network. Disable all applications, ports, and protocols that are not essential to operations.
- Ensure software is up to date.
- Reinforce employee training, especially regarding clicking on strange emails. According to CISA, 90% of ransomware attacks come through phishing.
- Renew your plan for managing an attack.
- Walk through scenarios in table-top exercises.
- Test back-up and recovery plans and continuity of operations in case a network is disabled.
- Make sure the emergency contact information for your people and partners is updated and available.
- Revisit your crisis communications plan.
Most cyberthreats can be managed, but we must be proactive. If your IT professionals have been requesting funds to strengthen cybersecurity, take this time to analyze the proposed solutions. Invest while you can. In the meantime—shields up!