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White House Warns Private Critical Infrastructure to Beef Up Cybersecurity as Russia Preps Attacks

Beefing up cybersecurity will require increased investments.

Edward Gately

March 21, 2022

3 Min Read
White House 2019
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The White House on Monday urged private critical infrastructure owners to beef up their cybersecurity in light of Russia preparing to launch U.S. cyberattacks.

The White House cybersecurity warning is based on evolving intelligence suggesting the Russian government may be exploring options for cyberattacks. The attacks would be in response to imposed economic sanctions.

“If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defenses immediately by implementing the best practices we have developed together over the last year,” President Biden said. “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. We need everyone to do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time. Your vigilance and urgency today can prevent or mitigate attacks tomorrow.”

Among White House cybersecurity recommendations:

  • Mandating the use of multifactor authentication (MFA).

  • Making sure all patching is up to date.

  • Backing up data and having offline backups outside of hackers’ reach.

  • Encrypting data so cybercriminals can’t use it.

  • Educating employees on common tactics attackers will use over email or through websites. In addition, encourage them to report any unusual behavior with computers or phones.

Shore Up Defenses Now

James McQuiggan is security awareness advocate at KnowBe4.

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KnowBe4’s James McQuiggan

“With the recent cyberattacks between Russia and Ukraine, and the current intelligence coming from the U.S. government, organizations want to shore up their defenses to reduce the risk of a successful attack by any nation-state,” he said. “Considering the target is towards the U.S.-defined critical infrastructure, organizations must implement the various safety requirements to protect their data and systems.”

However, mitigating threat tactics put forth by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s “shields up” will require boards to approve and fast-track spending for products and services not already implemented, McQuiggan said.

“Some of the items that are the quickest return on investment and implementation time would be reviewing incident plans and recovery strategies in the event of an attack,” he said. “Review and mitigate risks to external-facing systems and verify they are fully patched and current on all security updates.”

It’s most important to provide employee cybersecurity education, McQuiggan said.

Timely Message

Garret Grajek is CEO of YouAttest. He called the warning a “timely message.”

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YouAttest’s Garret Grajek

“Not only has Russia warned of attacks on western infrastructure, there has been evidence of the change of hacks from purely financial … to more malicious instructions and efforts to disrupt western critical infrastructure,” he said. “The alert is warranted and should extend to all internet-facing systems that were identified in all the 16 categories of infrastructure identified by the CISA.”

The key to securing these systems is to be aware of all assets, especially identity, Grejek said. It’s also important to know any changes in roles and permissions.

Lucas Budman is CEO of TruU.

“Enterprises need to act and ensure all attack surfaces are covered,” he said. “While network and endpoint protection are important, identity is the biggest laggard and the ripest for attack with approximately 80% of breaches linking back to it.”

Most business still use passwords, Budman said. Hackers can compromise credentials with brute force, credential stuffing or buying lists of already compromised accounts.

“After all, people tend to reuse passwords, which results in two-factor authentication (2FA) effectively being secured by just the second factor alone,” he said.

Passwordless MFA us one of the few modern options to dramatically limit the identity attack surface, Budman said.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Edward Gately or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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