Cyberthreat: Don’t care about the Russia-Ukraine dispute? It could upend your life

By Michael Moore
M3 Networks

Unintended consequences can go farther than you think.

  • You cheered for the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, and they won. After the game, there were violent and destructive “celebrations” (riots) in downtown L.A. One of those retail shops may have been the new store that you moved into that neighborhood, and your most valuable merchandise is gone.
  • Your company wins a big contract from a prospective customer. As a result, your main competitor for the bid – the incumbent vendor for that customer – terminated several employees over the lost business. One of the upset former employees of that company damaged your company truck or slashed its tires.
  • You are playing in a major golf tournament, and you have a one-stroke lead on the final hole for what would be a career-defining win. Your opponent is 100 yards out from the green and your ball is on the green, 10 feet away from the hole, a certain putt for victory.
  • You can imagine how your lifestyle will change when you win the $1.5 million first prize. Unfortunately, your opponent holes out from 100 yards. You are so flustered that you miss what should have been the winning putt. You are so shell-shocked that you never win another golf tournament in your career. Not only did you lose this $1.5 million and the endorsements and momentum that would have come with that win, but you never win another tournament because you can’t get it out of your mind.

We all learned in grade school or middle school that Sir Isaac Newton created the third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

  • If you push someone out of space, only you are in that space.
  • For you to win, somebody has to lose.
  • For you to gain an exclusive new customer (one who doesn’t share their business with two or more vendors) somebody has to lose that exclusive customer.

For every up, somebody has a down. Consider how you might  become negatively impacted by this Russia-Ukraine crisis:

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  • If Russia invades Ukraine and the U.S. imposes sanctions on Russia (President Biden has threatened to impose sanctions):
    • Russia decides to retaliate by not only authorizing but INCENTIVIZING all the hackers and ransomware criminals to attack the United States
    • Russia reaches out to China and asks that rogue nation to incentivize all the hackers and ransomware criminals to attack the United States
    • Russia and China reach out to their group of freelance hackers and incentivizes them to create havoc anywhere and everywhere
  • And, oh yes,  your cost of gasoline rises yet again because of the Nord Stream II pipeline being cut off as a sanction against Russia.

It’s precisely like the post-Super Bowl riot or losing the golf tournament in the example: You have done absolutely nothing wrong, yet you will be inconvenienced or even worse.

Consider that multibillion-dollar corporations are being hacked again and again. This past Monday (Feb. 14), it was disclosed that the San Francisco 49ers football team had received a ransomware demand. If a company that valuable is vulnerable, how safe do you feel that you are?

What are some of the potential results if this level of chaos is unleashed? Just as I warned previously, there could be attacks on our municipal water systems.
Imagine the total disruption if all our traffic signals are scrambled and there’s no consistency in our traffic.
Hospitals, which have been victims of the attack, could become prime targets once again.
Gas pipelines like the Colonial Pipeline, food processors such as JBS, and all the others, are targets once again.

How to protect yourself

Now is the time to be vigilant – even more than vigilant. If a rogue nation is empowering its criminal element to unleash its worst actions on you, you need to be prepared:

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  1. Use two-step encryption on every password and log-in on every device.
  2. Be serious about upgrading your passwords on every account, particularly your email – 123456 is NOT an effective password, nor is your cat’s name or your nickname for your loved one (Cuddles, or whatever you call him/her).
  3. Implement passwords that replace letters with numbers: e = 3, a + @, o = 0, and use a symbol such as . or / or =.
  4. Use a different password for each account.
  5. Get an effective third-party password manager, such as:
    • 1Password
    • Dashlane
    • Roboform

Just remember that in this world of convenience, making your password easy for YOU to remember also makes that password easy to hack.

If you’re not sure how safe your passwords are, go to PasswordMonster and test a few. You might be surprised.

Finally – and you won’t like this one – consider temporarily turning off Alexa and Google Home personal assistant because diligent hackers can hear your in-home conversations.

Michael D. Moore is a cybersecurity expert and founder/CEO of M3 Networks in Southlake.