Ukraine conflict brings cybersecurity risks to US homes, businesses

Russia’s cyberattack capabilities can be applied to US targets, including regular Americans’ homes and businesses.

By Richard Forno Published on Feb 24, 2022.
Regular Americans could find themselves targets of Russian cyberwarfare. Roberto Westbrook via Getty Images

All cybersecurity is local, regardless of the world situation. That means it’s personal, too – in Americans’ homes, computers and online accounts. As violence spreads thousands of miles away from the U.S., my strong recommendation is that all Americans remain vigilant and check on their own cybersecurity.

While organizations reinforce their cybersecurity posture during this period of geopolitical tension, I also suggest people regularly ensure their computer, mobile devices and software are updated, double-check that all passwords are secure and all key accounts are protected by two-factor authentication. Beware that phishing attacks may increase, seeking to trick people into clicking links that grant attackers access to computer systems. These are a few simple steps that can help increase one’s cybersecurity preparedness both now and for the future.

Recent Russian-linked cyberattacks, including against energy pipelines, federal government services, and attacks on local governments, first responders, hospitals and private corporations, show the potential for Russian cyber warriors to put U.S. civilians at risk. All these entities should be more vigilant over the coming days.

In the days before Russia invaded Ukraine, a series of cyberattacks disrupted Ukrainian government and business websites – despite Ukraine’s cyberdefense teams’ being prepared to defend against them.

With many Americans working from home because of the pandemic, the U.S. is more vulnerable than it might have been otherwise: Home networks and computers are often less protected than those at an office – which makes them enticing targets.

Russian cyber capabilities, and threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin, mean that what might look like random technical glitches on personal computers, websites and home networks may not be accidental. They could be precursors to – or actual parts of – a larger cyberattack. Therefore, ongoing vigilance is more crucial than ever.

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Richard Forno has received research funding related to cybersecurity from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD) during his academic career, and sits on the advisory board of BlindHash, a cybersecurity startup focusing on remedying the password problem.

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