As the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, the threat of cyber attacks continues to escalate, as well. The number of cyberattacks waged by both countries since war first broke out is “staggering,” according to the researchers at Check Point Software Technologies.
Russia most likely will not directly attempt an attack on infrastructure in the U.S. But that won’t stop independent groups from interfering, trying to give either Russia or Ukraine a leg up in the confrontation.
With so much uncertainty, vulnerabilities can be more easily targeted. Now is the time to step up your awareness and security measures to protect yourself from cyber threats.
Choose strong passwords
This should be a given, but many people choose passwords that are easy for them to remember, which makes them easier to hack. Choose a password that is 12 to 15 characters, includes special characters and doesn’t spell out any actual words. You should choose different passwords for all of your multiple online accounts and change them frequently. Try using a password manager to keep track of all your passwords. Microsoft and Google offer a free service. Passportal is an example of a paid service you can check into, as well.
Use a third-party two-step authentication process for your online accounts when available. Google offers a free two-step authentication process you can sign up for. You can also check out VIP Access you can use for multiple accounts. Using two-step authentication offers an extra layer of security to all of your online accounts, making it more difficult for hackers to crack your passwords and break into your accounts and siphon your data.
Purchase and keep current antivirus software to help prevent hackers from getting into your system and causing damage to your computer and all your data. You can typically set the software to update automatically. This will protect your laptop, smartphone, and any data as well as alert you to websites that may be bait sites. Bitdefender, Sentinel One, and ESET are three of the best Antivirus applications for PCs. All of these programs alert you to possible malware and ransomware that may have tried to access your computer.
Be extra cautious if you frequent public Wi-Fi sources. Hackers can use free Wi-Fi to intercept your communications, steal your passwords and hack your system. When you’re in a coffee shop or restaurant, for example, it might be safest to use your personal hotspot from your smartphone as opposed to the free Wi-Fi. Or, if you really want to step up your security game, invest in a jetpack or personal Wi-Fi called Mi-Fi.
Keep tabs on your personal data
It’s a great idea to check your credit score at least once a week. Not only to see your latest score but to check for suspicious activity. Make sure no unauthorized credit cards or lines of credit have been opened in your name. Check your bank account regularly for anything that seems fishy, as well. Just be sure to use non-public Wi-Fi when you check your personal data.
Don’t click links in your email
I’m sure you’ve received emails containing links or attachments that look legit on the surface. But on more careful inspection, you see some discrepancies that become serious red flags. Never click on any link or attachment in an email unless you’re 100 percent sure of the source. It’s always better to go directly to the website. It’s important to understand hackers are getting more and more sophisticated and their tactics are getting more difficult to spot unless you’re extremely vigilant. One way to determine the true origin of an email is to click the “from” email at the top of your email message. Usually, it has a name that you recognize, but the email itself is not actually from the company.
Be extra cautious of cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency is one-way hackers and cybercriminals can hide their tracks. So, it’s important to go through trusted channels when considering investing in crypto. Be extra leary of any emails, texts, or robocalls asking you to click a link to give money or invest. If you want to donate money to support any person or group, even domestic politicians, it’s best to go directly to the official website to donate. Donations are especially suspicious right now.
The truth is Russia has been behind some of the most sophisticated cyber attacks in history. There’s no reason to believe they don’t have the weaponry to wreak havoc on U.S. infrastructure, including tons of smaller independent businesses, with the intent to damage our entire economy. The ability has long been there to do that.
But beyond that, Russia has sympathizer groups who may want to inflict their own brand of vigilante justice on many countries that are currently levying sanctions against Russia. These groups can do a lot of damage to personal and business accounts with cyber warfare tactics. It’s imperative that everyone remain hyper-aware of anything that looks even slightly off or suspicious.