GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) – Security officials say Americans are at a higher risk of Russian cyberattacks following the Ukraine invasion, and the United States government is on high alert. We spoke with some experts at Colorado Mesa University’s Cybersecurity Center to find out some basic tips to keep ourselves safe online from potential Russian cyber attacks, as well as what to keep an eye out for.
“As a user, the best thing you can do is make sure you have secure passwords, you’re not reusing passwords on the same websites, and don’t click any link without making sure to verify from the original source,” said CMU Junior Drake Cullen who is majoring in computer science.
One tip Drake Cullen gives is if the email seems urgent, it’s probably fake and not urgent. If a request in an email comes from an email address that you know, double-check with them outside of that email.
“Make sure they really are requesting what they’re saying because someone could have compromised their account,” stated Cullen.
Drake, who is also with CMU’s cybersecurity team, says the biggest thing when it comes to infecting a system is not having up-to-date software.
“Most attacks exploit known vulnerabilities that there are patches for. So, as long as you update your software, you’ll be protected against a large number of threats,” explained Cullen.
CMU has its own cybersecurity center, which allows students to engage in real-world, hands-on cybersecurity research. They also hire students to work on various cyber-related projects.
“In the classroom, in order to defend against what these people are doing, you need to know what they’re doing,” said Cullen. “So in classes, we’re learning a lot of ways to think like the criminal so we can stop them before they do what they’re trying to carry out.”
One thing in specific relation to Ukraine and Russia is there have been large funds being raised for the Ukrainian government to help fund the war campaign.
“But that also brought rise to fake organizations pretending to be the Ukrainian government. Double-check who you’re actually sending that money to because it can be a fake organization,” added Cullen.
These higher funded threats on the offensive are different from individual hackers. They are looking to steal confidential information or destabilize the country as a whole, such as knocking down transportation systems or messing with banking information systems.
“It’s more so trying to mess with communication. There’s been a lot of talk about trying to disrupt Ukrainian communication,” stated Cullen. “Because if you can do that, different troops on the ground won’t be able to communicate with one another and that’ll cause a lot of disruption.”
“If they want to bring a government down, they would probably attack their school infrastructures, transportation systems, financial systems and hospital systems,” said Assistant Professor of computer science at CMU Ram Basnet. “That’s where they can inflict a lot more damages than trying to attack individuals.”
“Make sure you’re always keeping your software up to date, not clicking random links, verify who you’re actually sending money to and why it’s such an urgent matter,” said Cullen. “Those are the biggest things you can do as a user to protect yourself.”
These tips, such as using two-factor authentication when logging into a website, using a different strong password for each website, keeping up to date on software, and being careful on what you click, can protect you from cyberattacks. Since cyber-attacks are hard to trace and pinpoint where they are coming from, as well as notify people ahead of time.
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