Russian cyberattacks are a threat. But so is Americans’ fear of shortages

Reports of Russian cyberattacks against our national infrastructure have sounded the alarm and called for increased vigilance in the public and private sectors of the United States. Given that the United States and its allies have imposed significant economic sanctions on Russia for its attack on Ukraine, Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks are likely; they can be considered an effective form of retaliation.

National infrastructure, including our nation’s power grid, food supply chain, water supply systems, financial system, and government agencies, have all been the target of cyberattacks for years.

For example, last spring ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS temporarily disrupted fuel and food supply chains. The attacks were attributed to an organization based in Russia. His motives were clearly financial – to secure payments from large, deep-pocketed organizations that cannot afford such disruption to their operations and supply chains.

Are cyber threats from state-sponsored Russian agents potentially deadlier? The problem is to differentiate between attacks sponsored by the state and attacks by cybercriminals. Their motivations may be different, but the tools they use still require penetrating cybersecurity walls through weak links, such as exploiting vulnerabilities in multi-factor authorization protocols.

The recent warning about possible Russian state-sponsored cyberattacks reminds us that every entity, large or small, is vulnerable if it lowers its cybersecurity guard. This has led to significant growth in the cybersecurity industry as more and more malicious actors attempt to break into the cyber infrastructures of businesses and organizations. The cybersecurity market is expected to reach over $366 billion by 2028.

Ironically, the most sophisticated firewalls and cybersecurity guards are only as secure as the people using them. Cybersecurity often requires people to take extra steps to ensure that their computer systems are protected. If a single person lets their guard down, for example by opening an innocuous-looking attachment that is actually a form of phishing, an author will be able to bypass sophisticated protections and gain access to valuable information behind a firewall. fire.

Russian cyber threats are not new. The statement President Joe Biden issued for heightened vigilance is not only applicable today, but should also be part of the daily protocol of every business and organization. From maintaining state-of-the-art firewalls and identity validation systems to training people to follow the latest security procedures, protecting each entity’s cyber infrastructure must be a top priority.

One of the main threats from potential Russian cyberattacks is an overreaction by Americans, as they fear disruptions to gasoline, food, banks or other commodities and create increased demand and shortages. artificial short-term supply. Such events would also temporarily cause prices to rise, further fueling inflationary pressures that have already reached their highest level in 40 years. This means that the American people, not the Russian government, would create havoc in the American economy.

While the war in Ukraine rages on and Ukrainians fight valiantly to protect their homeland, cyber warfare in the United States has been going on for decades. The most recent alerts regarding Russian cyberattacks are just another cybersecurity battle to consider.

Should Americans be worried about their gas, food or energy supply? No more than they were last month or last year. The biggest threats arise when known vulnerabilities aren’t immediately fixed and when people let their cybersecurity guard down and allow malicious actors in.

Then the worst case scenario could become our reality.

Sheldon H. Jacobson is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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