The Russia invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 has shattered the lives of millions of people in the country and rattled the entire world. Security professionals have warned of an increased threat of Russia launching a nation-state attack. Nation-state attacks are malicious cyberattacks from a specific country to try to advance that country’s interests. And while the current focus is on a threat from Russia, these attacks can come from any country.
In mid-February, the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a “Shields Up” alert for potential cyberattacks and recommended that companies strengthen their security posture amid the ongoing attacks. This recommendation resulted from its analysis of vulnerabilities used by Russian cyberthreat actors and led to the addition of 95 vulnerabilities to the CISA’s catalog of exploited vulnerabilities on March 3. Recent CISA alerts have spanned multiple countries and tactics.
“The larger point here is that there’s little chance that cyberattacks will be limited to Ukraine,” according to the Harvard Business Review article “What Russia’s Ongoing Cyberattacks in Ukraine Suggest About the Future of Cyber Warfare.” “Governments and corporations should closely heed what’s going on there, because cyberwar can – and has – quickly spread across borders.”
While following this advice in relation to today’s dominant threat, companies should strengthen their security postures against all vulnerabilities. In this article, experts from a leading cybersecurity consulting firm, Netrix, share five strategies for companies to help them to maintain vigilance and ensure the highest level of protection for their most important asset—their data—in times of war.
Strategy #1 – Assess your vulnerabilities
The increase in the remote workforce beginning in 2020 had already spurred security concerns because remote workers are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Netrix has previously shared common work-related habits that could unknowingly put your company at risk. A thorough security assessment is an effective way to understand all vulnerabilities. It involves a host of checks, including:
- Discovering where all your data is stored (and how sensitive it is)
- Considering your security priorities, influences and initiatives
- Determining which types of cyberattacks are the biggest threat to your organization. Different industries face unique threats because of data types, customer bases and connections to outside organizations
- Evaluating whether employees are following proper cyber hygiene when working remotely, like not assessing the company network using personal devices
Strategy #2 – Practice good cyber hygiene
During war, direct cyberattacks from bad actors are possible, as are infrastructure attacks that impact your business. All the usual cybersecurity best practices apply in the current supercharged climate. Those practices include: monitoring proactively for malware and other threats; limiting access to resources to just the people who absolutely need them; backing up your data (and testing your backup); securing data with multi-factor authentication; and updating services, including tools, servers, and firewalls.
However, additional measures are recommended if your company has done business with or currently does business with Ukraine or neighboring countries, like Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, or Moldova. “There’s a reasonable chance of organizations that do business in the region…becoming victims of collateral damage from attacks designed to impact Ukraine,” according to the Dark Reading article. CISA recommends isolating traffic and reviewing access controls in such situations.
Strategy #3 – Motivate from the top
Most company leaders we talk to understand the enormous risk from cyberthreats but don’t always share their beliefs widely. The leadership of an organization – everyone from board members to senior executives – can provide an invaluable service to their organizations and employees by showing interest in cybersecurity and starting cybersecurity conversations with the entire organization.
Coaching at the executive level can be a powerful tool to help people understand the serious nature of cyberthreats. It also helps reinforce that cybersecurity and data privacy aren’t the responsibility of just the organization but every employee’s responsibility. It is important to keep everyone in the company up-to-date on how they can prevent themselves and the organization from falling prey to security threats. At Netrix, for instance, CEO Russ Reeder emails the entire company to alert employees to security threat news and remind everyone to be cautious.
Strategy #4 – Respond and communicate immediately
If the worst-case scenario occurs and a cybercriminal is able to breach your company’s defenses, your response must be immediate and transparent. A Netrix executive remembers entering the store of a nationwide company after a reported breach. After being asked to insert a credit card at the checkout, this employee asked, “Is this safe?” The sales representative responded by saying, “Probably not but it’ll probably be corrected later on.” Not a reassuring response in such a situation.
Another employee visited their bank branch after a breach and asked for confirmation of the security of their data. The bank representative didn’t even know a breach had occurred. A lack of notification can cost a company a customer if they no longer trust you with their data. Choose to be open, honest, and transparent about breaches with regulators, vendors, employees, and customers so you can maintain trust, prevent further spread, and help avoid future breaches. That means sharing both what happened and how you’re responding.
Strategy #5 – Find a trusted partner for managed security services
Monitoring and defending against cyberthreats can be overwhelming, especially with events like the Ukraine invasion stirring new cyber risk worries. The cybersecurity talent shortage is making this even tougher, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have access to the security resources of large companies and could become an easy target.
A trusted partner can help you navigate cyber challenges and bolster your company’s security. A managed security services partner can also help you:
- Offer guidance on good cyber hygiene practices and strategies to increase your protection against global threats.
- Track bad actors and potential threats (including the many that are much less publicized than the cyberthreat from Russia and don’t become part of the news cycle).
- Share security expertise whenever you need it – something that can provide reassurance when a war raises cyberthreat concerns
- Alert you to the opportunist threats that coincide with major events – like March Madness, natural disasters, global crises or the Super Bowl – when people are eager for information and may be persuaded to click on phishing links
Protect your company with managed security services
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has understandably accelerated fears of cyberattacks, but these risks are constant and can come from multiple nations. Be ready for them. Prioritize your company’s data and employees by assessing your vulnerabilities, practicing good cyber hygiene, setting a positive example from the top, choosing transparency if you experience an attack, and considering a managed security services provider like Netrix. Taking these actions can help keep your valuable data secure and increase confidence that you can quickly address threats when they appear.