(QUEEN CITY NEWS) – As the war in Ukraine continues, another war is unfolding online.
On Monday, President Joe Biden warned small business owners that cyberattacks from Russian hackers were coming.
“The closer Putin’s back is to the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he can employ,” the president said. “One of those tools that he’s most likely to use in my opinion, in our opinion, is cyberattacks.”
While big hacks, like the one that shut down Colonial Pipeline last year, can grab headlines, small businesses could be the most vulnerable.
The same suspected Russian hacking group that shut down the pipeline also claimed to have hacked into several small businesses in the Carolinas, including an agricultural equipment store, a small publisher and a plastics supplier.
Grant Gibson, a North Carolina-based cyber expert, says there is already a lot of activity between Russian and American hackers.
“Hackers from the United States and Russia are getting into it. There’s a cyber warfare element to that,” said Gibson, of the Cyber Institute for Battle Readiness.
Gibson told Queen City News that government agencies and major corporations have been working to bolster their cyber defenses.
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But small businesses are more vulnerable.
“(Hackers) look at small and medium businesses because they are easier targets. They have invested less in security. They know they’re less likely to change their password or use multi-factor authentication or keep their systems up to date. Or even have a professional they turn to for cybersecurity issues,” Gibson said.
Although changing a password seems like an easy step, it can be extremely valuable, according to experts. Many hacks happen because of a compromised password.
Gibson also recommends companies implement two-factor authentication, a process in which a text message with a passcode is sent to the user.
However, even the best defense can have its weaknesses.
“Defending against a sophisticated attack is really difficult. It’s not really difficult to launch a sophisticated attack,” Gibson said.
Gibson says the international community must move toward a type of cyber deterrence, similar to what nations have used with nuclear weapons.
“It’s a bit like the wild Wild West. We need to get to a place where we know, at the very least, that Russia will not shut down our power grid. Do they have the capacity to do it? Probably. Could we do it to them? Probably. Will any of us do it? We don’t know,” Gibson said. “It’s because we don’t have any international standards for cybersecurity.”