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How the Ukraine-Russia Conflict Could Impact Cybersecurity

The Ukraine-Russia conflict has captured the world’s attention, but the physical warfare only tells part of the story. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, seemingly state-sponsored cyberattacks against Ukraine have risen, and now experts fear this may spill over to other nations, too.

While much about the conflict remains uncertain, it will undoubtedly have a profound impact on cybersecurity across the globe. Countries and companies that haven’t already prepared for a future of cyber warfare must do so now.

Cyber Warfare Has Become a Reality

Security experts have warned of the dangers of state-sponsored cyberattacks long before the conflict in Ukraine. Now, these fears have become a reality. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack knocked Ukrainian government sites offline on February 22, two days before the invasion.

A similar attack took down four Ukrainian government websites the week prior. Officials from the U.S. and U.K. attributed this attack to Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. While Russia has denied its involvement in these cyberattacks, officials and security agencies refute that claim.

As other nations impose economic sanctions on Russia, some fear similar attacks could follow in retaliation. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has warned organizations to prepare for possible cyberattacks from Russia. These attacks may target government agencies or go for the private sector to deal economic damage.

Cyberattacks Could Jeopardize Supply Chains

Many people’s minds turn to critical infrastructure amid the threat of state-sponsored cyberattacks. While this is a serious threat, supply chains may be a more vulnerable target. These networks often lack the security resources and awareness of other targets, and recent attacks highlight their weakness.

The SolarWinds attack was deployed nearly 10 months before the first company disclosed that they found malware in the system. This lack of transparency makes supply chains ideal targets. Since these networks are already fragile, a successful cyberattack against them could cause severe financial damage.

Since more than 100 Fortune 500 companies rely on Ukrainian IT services, attacks on Ukraine could work their way through the software supply chain to affect other nations. In such an interconnected world, cyberattacks are rarely isolated.

Cybercrime Enables Widespread Disinformation

The Ukraine-Russia conflict also raises concerns about cyber psychological warfare. Digital resources provide the perfect channel to deliver disinformation, causing unrest and chaos in a population.

The Ukrainian cyber police noticed a wave of fraudulent text messages telling Ukrainian citizens that ATM services were down. While officials and citizens were able to dispel this lie quickly, it highlights a larger fear. In an already chaotic time, people may be more susceptible to easily spreadable mass misinformation.

As the situation worsens, Russian forces could use social media to spread more misleading or false claims to cause panic. Alternatively, these campaigns could disrupt government and military operations. Similar campaigns will likely play a role in future conflicts, too.

Companies and Governments Alike Must Prepare

Regardless of whether Russian agencies were actually behind these attacks, they paint a concerning picture of the future. The age of cyber warfare is here. Both governments and private organizations must bolster their cybersecurity in response to growing threats.

State-sponsored cybercrime could be far more sophisticated and threatening than typical attacks. Organizations with sensitive data or in charge of critical processes must adopt advanced defenses. Zero-trust architecture, internet of things (IoT) security, continuous network monitoring, and business continuity should become standard practice.

State-Sponsored Cybercrime Is a Real and Dangerous Threat

The cyber warfare of the Ukraine-Russia conflict solidifies what many security experts have been saying for years. Cybersecurity is a matter of national safety, so all organizations must consider it.

Whether this conflict will spawn broader, international cyberattacks remains uncertain. However, regardless of how it turns out, both private and public sectors must take the opportunity to strengthen their cyber defenses.

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

About the Author: Devin Partida

Devin

 

Devin Partida is cybersecurity and technology writer, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the tech blog ReHack.com.

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