Are Connecticut residents at risk of cyberattacks amid Russian invasion? | #computerhacking | #hacking

While Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences” in response to sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. ability to respond to cyber threats may be deterring such actions, an expert said.

Vahid Behzadan, assistant professor of computer science and data science at the University of New Haven, specializing in cybersecurity, said despite the country’s ability to respond, there is some reason for concern.

“We here in the U.S. are always at the risk of cyber-compromise, both by state-sponsored attackers, and by civilians,” Behzadan said. “Russia is one of the cyber superpowers of the world today. Russia is very active in cyber operations. And the Russian government, including the Russian military, have a very, very powerful arsenal of cyber weapons and cyber capability at their disposal.”

Everything is connected to the web, so it’s not just a question of data collection. Hackers have, in the past, used computer access to take over physical infrastructure, such as dam operations.

In a threat last week, Putin said: “No matter who tries to stand in our way or all the more so create threats for our country and our people, they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

That same day, U.S. President Joe Biden noted that “the Russian government has perpetrated cyberattacks against Ukraine prior to its physical invasion.” Biden said that the United States was prepared if Russia attempted similar tactics against the United States.

“If Russia pursues cyberattacks against our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond,” Biden said.

A threat assessment in 2019 released by the U.S. Intelligence Community found that “Moscow is now staging cyberattack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage U.S. civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis and poses a significant cyber influence threat.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency found in 2018 that energy generation had been a target.

“In multiple instances, the threat actors accessed workstations and servers on a corporate network that contained data output from control systems within energy generation facilities,” the agency wrote.

“It’s not anything to lose sleep over,” Behzadan said. “Direct targeting of the critical infrastructure here in the U.S., or the banking systems here in the U.S. is very unlikely.”

The reason is akin to mutually assured destruction. The United States has both cyber capability and physical bullets.

“If the banking system in Russia was suddenly targeted or if the electric grid in Russia or the U.S. were to be targeted, that would essentially constitute an act of war,” Behzadan said. “Neither Russia nor the U.S. nor our allies are interested in escalating the situation into a cyber world war, which can of course, escalate into a kinetic World War.”

It’s that fear of open war, whether in a digital or physical domain, that is keeping state-sponsored cyber-terrorism at bay, Behzadan said.

“That’s why I believe that direct targeting of the critical infrastructure here in the U.S., or the banking system here in the U.S. by the Russian government, is unlikely,” he said.

There are, however, things about which Behzadan is concerned. One is cyberterrorism carried out by individuals.

“There are patriotic citizens who are also active in the hacking domain,” Behzadan said. “Russian hackers have taken patriotic hacking to a completely different level. Hacking groups that are not officially affiliated with the Russian government have previously demonstrated their enthusiasm to engage in disruptive cyber operations, including distributed denial of service attacks, ransomware campaigns, malware campaigns like wiper campaigns, and so on.”

The likeliest scenario for people in this state is not that they would be specifically targeted, but that they would fall victim to large-scale cyber campaigns.

“The good news is many of the people here in Connecticut are not typically targeted specifically,” Behzadan said. “They may become the victims of automated larger scale campaigns, which look for vulnerable machines.”

“They compromise the system and either infect it with ransomware to ask for monetary ransom in exchange for releasing encrypted file and data, or their devices may be used as launchpads for larger attacks,” he said.

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