Officials tighten cybersecurity measures amid potential threats from Russia; Here’s how to protect yourself
A Russian cybergang publicly threatened to launch cyberattacks against any country that retaliated against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. A Team 12 investigation found that this threat should not be taken lightly. But so far, it’s been the Russian hackers who have learned a harsh lesson: cyberwarfare is a two-way street.
Ransomware attacks were up 92% last year, according to the 2022 Cyber Threat Report from Sonic Wall, a leading cybersecurity firm. The Colonial Pipeline, Hackensack Meridian Health and the world’s largest meat processing company, KBS, are just some of the corporations that had their files stolen or encrypted and held for ransom, often by cyber-gangs based in Russia.
One of the biggest offenders, the Conti ransomware gang, issued a public warning on Friday. If any nation tried to act against Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine, Conti would “use our full capacity to deliver retaliatory measures”.
Cybersecurity expert Scott Schober says cyberattacks aimed at the United States could do a lot of damage.
“There's 135 refineries throughout the United States, so those types of targeted attacks could be devastating. Suddenly, the price of gas would go through the roof and heating and so forth. Those are things that affect our lives, and we need to be concerned about,” Schober says.
LIVE UPDATES: The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis
Kane In Your Corner dug into the Conti ransomware gang’s history and found the group, which has ties to Russian intelligence services, has conducted more than 1,000 attacks - according to the FBI and the National Security Agency - and has demanded ransoms as high as $25 million. It is no surprise the governors of New York and New Jersey both announced their states would be tightening cybersecurity measures in the wake of the threat.
But the group’s aggressive posture may have backfired. Over the past few days, other hackers have launched hundreds of attacks against Russia, knocking out service to the Kremlin, state television networks, banks, and other infrastructure. And disgruntled members of the Conti gang have leaked a treasure trove of data, including the group’s Bitcoin addresses.
“That's going to make it very difficult not just for Russia, but especially this particular gang,” Schober says.
Experts say ransomware gangs are most likely to target large companies or governments where they can extract huge paydays, but individuals can be targets, too. There’s no way to be completely safe but you can reduce your risk by following good security practices.
Experts advise you to always back up your files and don’t leave them connected to the same computers or networks they’re backing up. Experts also advise downloading the latest security updates, not clicking on suspicious email links and enabling multi-factor authentication, so even if someone cracks your password, they won’t be able to lock you out of your account easily.
“When we do that, we're 100 times more secure,” Schober says.