London. Paul Salter. WWCS Chief Information Security Officer and Head of Cyber Security.
The UK body responsible for keeping us safe online, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, are urging UK firms to follow their guidance for when the cyber threat is heightened.
Interestingly NCSC are not saying they are aware of specific threats against UK interests, but that the Ukraine has long been a target of Russian cyber attacks and some of those have had serious international consequences. The concern at the moment is that targeted ‘Wiper’ attacks, that aim to destroy data on infected computers in the Ukraine, start to spread to the wider world.
This fear that a computer virus could spread rapidly across the globe like the COVID global pandemic is not some theoretical Sci Fi plot, we have seen several global outbreaks that have caused billions of US Dollars worth of damage. The aptly named WannaCry outbreak in March 2017 spread from computer to computer like a worm. It reportedly cost the UK’s NHS an estimated £92 million alone and infected around 200,000 computers in 150 countries.
Later that year a virus dubbed Not Petya was maliciously inserted to legitimate Ukrainian financial software. This malware appeared to be targeted on Ukrainian assets but spread like WannaCry and went on to infect some really big organisations, including British advertising giant WPP, Cadbury’s owner Mondelez and international shipping firm Maersk. The UK Government attributed this attack to the Russian military. It is this scenario that many experts fear could happen again.
As the Russians continue to struggle in their conventional military efforts and the economic effect of Western sanctions bite, Putin may also look to retaliate against the economic assets of those countries leading the fight against them. A cyber attack could cause international mayhem without the mutually assured destruction of nuclear weapons.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves? Well, the advice is not new, but it is important. It includes: keep your computers and antivirus up to date, protect your user accounts with strong passwords and MFA, ensure you have good backups, train your users, have an incident plan.
Over the last few months, the WW team have already helped numerous clients improve their Cyber Security level. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your Cyber Security Requirements.