Citing “evolving intelligence,” President Joe Biden urged private businesses nationwide to bolster their digital defenses as Russia mulls potential cyberattacks against the United States.
The warning buoys concerns that private U.S.-based companies need to prioritize network security after U.S. intelligence determined that Russian government hackers have most likely breached Ukrainian military, energy and other critical computer networks, The Washington Post reported.
“Today, we are reiterating those warnings, and we’re doing so based on evolving threat intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure in the United States,” Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, said at a White House briefing Monday.
“To be clear, there is no certainty there will be a cyber incident on critical infrastructure,” she added.
Meanwhile, Biden said in a statement issued Monday that Russia “could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed” in response to the Ukraine invasion, Bloomberg reported.
“You have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of the critical services and technologies on which Americans rely,” Biden stated, speaking directly to private U.S. business owners.
Specifically, the White House issued a checklist of immediate steps business owners should take to safeguard against cyberattacks. Let’s break down seven specific security precautions you can take at the company level:
1. Don’t help hackers access your network.
Mandating the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems makes it harder for hackers to gain access.
2. Modernize your tools.
If you’ve been on the fence about technology upgrades and their return on investment, now would be the best time to evaluate and invest in the most advanced security tools available for continuously tracking and mitigating cyber threats.
3. Your IT personnel are invaluable.
Whether they’re in-house or contracted, your go-to cybersecurity professionals can help you determine if your systems are properly patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities. You should also consider changing passwords across your network to ensure that previously hijacked credentials cannot be turned against your company by a “malicious actor.”
4. Backup. Backup. Backup.
Simply backing up your company’s data is not enough. Consider employing offline backups beyond the reach of hackers (See above, and leverage the expertise of the IT professional you’ve hired to get this right.)
5. Plan and practice.
Review and tweak in-house emergency plans for addressing a cyberattack, and then run exercises and drills to ensure top speed is deployed should an attack sneak through and that the impact is minimized.
6. Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if hacked.
7. Educate your employees.
They don’t need to become cybersecurity experts overnight, but familiarize your employees with common tactics that attackers employ, often through email and websites, and encourage them to report any suspicious activity exhibited by their company phones or computers. Unusual crashes and glacially slow runtimes may seem more annoying than concerning, but they can also be red flags of interference.
Meanwhile, the White House encouraged technology and software companies nationwide to build security into their products from the ground up to protect both intellectual property and customers’ privacy.
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