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Cybersecurity experts reveal 4 ways to protect your business as U.S.-Russia relations deteriorate

March 18, 2022, 11:55 AM UTC

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent sanctions from the Western world in response, have sparked corporate concern over cybersecurity threats. And for good reason.

Hackers, presumed to be Russian, shut down more than 70 Ukrainian government sites in January, and other government and corporate entities could be next.

In 2021 alone, major hacks linked to Russia targeted some of the largest companies in the world, including Microsoft, Facebook, and Kroger. JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, was forced to shut down all of its U.S. plants after an attack on its computer networks in May. A major cyberattack also forced the shutdown of one of America’s largest fuel pipelines in 2021. Such breaches cost companies an average of $4.24 million per incident, according to an IBM report, and can lead to trillions of dollars in total losses.

As Russia wages a digital war, the Department of Homeland Security has warned boards to be extra cautious. Modern Board spoke with cybersecurity practitioners for guidance on managing cybersecurity risks. Here’s what they said:

Move fast and create action plans

If boards are not already aware of the need to monitor and manage cybersecurity risk, they must swiftly jump into action. Continuous monitoring and cybersecurity vigilance should not solely be tasked to chief information officers and IT leads.

“Boards need to get involved immediately to ensure that company leadership is laser-focused on cybersecurity,” says Jacob Olcott, VP of government affairs at cyber-risk ratings firm BitSight. “CEOs need to review incident response plans with executive leadership and security teams, and be ready to put those plans into action.”

Employ identity verification

The proliferation of remote and hybrid work means that employees and third parties are able to access everything from anywhere, says Fran Rosch, CEO of ForgeRock, a cybersecurity software company. “You need the ability to distinguish real users from bad actors.”  

Employers should mandate strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and increased cybersecurity training, as well as enhance the sensitivity of monitoring systems. Rosch adds that help desks will likely soon be bombarded by imposters trying to steal customer information or access employee accounts.

Be wary of brute force attacks

Robert Blumofe, EVP and chief technology officer of Akamai Technologies, says companies should be prepared for “brute force” attacks, which is when hackers submit millions of passwords in an attempt to infiltrate systems.

“Implementing DDoS [distributed denial-of-service] protections or a web application firewall on critical internet-facing applications can be done quickly and provides a good defense,” Blumofe says. If these are already in place, Blumofe suggests revising protocols for attack response and data migration in the event that digital evacuation becomes necessary.

Additional protections include multifactor authentication, Zero Trust access, and micro-segmentation. Although they take longer to implement, they provide significantly stronger protection against attacks because they minimize vulnerabilities.

Get non-tech leaders on board

Employees can be loose with their passwords, fall for phishing scams, or make human errors that compromise cybersecurity and lead to accidental exposure of a company’s data. 

While leaders can lean on their IT department and technology partners, they must ensure that cybersecurity is an organizational responsibility and train all employees on how they contribute to the organization’s digital security.

“Any part of your organization that is exposed to the internet can become an entry point for a cyberattack,” Blumofe says. “Be prepared for what you will do if technology goes down—emergency methods of communication, scenario planning for core business operations, and so on.”

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Aman Kidwai


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Numbers That Matter


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