U.S. officials warn of cyber-attacks amid Ukraine crisis

Cyber security fears grow as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues
Cyber security fears grow as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues
Published: Feb. 27, 2022 at 5:48 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies are warning Americans and U.S. businesses to be on high alert for cyber-attacks in the coming weeks as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.

Some Ukrainians like Yuriy Petrenko say the invasion comes as a surprise.

“A lot of people thought that he [Putin] was bluffing, but he was not,” said Petrenko. “And I was one of those people.”

Robert Kopack, a faculty member at the UofSC Geography Department, has studied how the fall of the Soviet Union created a weakened Ukraine and how Russia has placed the building blocks for the current invasion. According to history, he says, the crisis doesn’t come as a surprise.

“Unfortunately, warning signs have been all over all over the walls for almost 10 years now, with the annexation of Crimea,” said Kopack.

Kopack says Ukraine has assets that Russia wants control of.

“So, think about nuclear arsenal, for example, ballistic missile silos, a lot of other things were located in Ukraine, and it’s kind of part of the of Russia’s Western Front,” said Kopack. “There’s always been this looming threat in the way of messaging that countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan don’t really exist. Why they’re more or less geopolitical creations and need not be sovereign. That it’s sort of more or less just something on paper.”

Cybersecurity expert Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz at the University of Phoenix says issues abroad can be felt here in the U.S. in terms of cyber-attacks.

“There’s kind of a ripple effect because certain types of infrastructure are somewhat linked,” said Kurtz. “But the challenges is the Russia has never been and bad actors never have been just very specific about kind of the attacks that they issue.”

Historically, Russia is known to attack essential services that include power, water, energy, and financial systems.

“All of those have been targets in the past and certainly don’t anticipate that that that would change any what we are seeing as changes, obviously, in Ukraine as the frequency of the attack, you know, the increased frequency of exactly what it is that they’re going after, has increased tenfold,” said Kurtz.

US agencies are urging users to protect their online identities and accounts by:

•             Making sure your passwords are complex and vary for each account

•             Updating all your networks, servers, devices, and antivirus protection with the latest version

•             Reviewing who has access to your accounts

“I think long gone are the days where maybe viruses are all we worried about, so we’ve certainly moved into a different type of environment,” said Kurtz. “The threat landscape is significantly changed over the last five years. We’re in an environment where everybody really needs to be on high alert about being vigilant about securing their systems and these are businesses organizations and individuals. "

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