As Russian military forces escalate attacks in Ukraine, the United States is bracing for another kind of invasion closer to home.
President Joe Biden warned again Monday that Russia may be preparing to wage cyberattacks against the United States in retaliation for the economic sanctions the U.S. and its NATO allies have levied against Moscow.
“My administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “But the federal government can’t defend against this threat alone.”
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Most of the critical infrastructure in the U.S. is owned and operated by the private sector which includes small businesses. Biden urged businesses to “harden your cyber defenses.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency chief Jen Easterly said Biden’s statement “reinforces the urgent need for all organizations, large and small, to act now to protect themselves against malicious cyber activity.”
“It’s incredibly profitable for hackers, so much so that ransomware attacks have doubled in each of the last two years and account for 22% of all 2021 cyberattacks,” said SecureLink chief technical officer Joel Burleson-Davis.
Small businesses are most vulnerable to the expected wave of ransomware attacks. Cybersecurity professionals are urging them to take immediate steps to defend themselves.
“Most small businesses are the perfect target for ransomware hackers,” said Corey White, CEO of security firm Cyvatar.
They have fewer resources and staffing to prepare for, defend against and recover from attacks, sometimes with devastating consequences.
“Unfortunately, small businesses are targeted more often because they are more vulnerable yet have access to the same critical data or systems that cybercriminals are seeking,” said Eman El-Sheikh, associate vice president of the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity.
The risk of ransomware attacks has only increased with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Aimei Wei, founder and chief technology officer of Stellar Cyber.
“Immediately after the conflict broke out, suspected Russian-sourced cyberattacks were observed over a 48-hour period at an increase of over 800%,” she said.