Ukraine Crisis

Our previous post (2nd Feb) asked the question whether the UK was at risk of Russian cyber-attack over Ukraine support. As the situation in Ukraine continues to escalate and remains fluid UK business/organisations should consider protecting themselves from potential cyber threats.

Putin may be preparing a cyber assault on British interests; the Home Secretary and GCHQ have warned (19th Feb) – they urged companies and public services to take pre-emptive measures to defend themselves against an attack. Priti Patel said, “as this crisis develops the Government expects to see cyber-attacks aimed at the West”.

Although geographically the UK is over 2,500km’s away from the Ukraine borders with Russia, that distance is much shorter in cyber space and attacks targeting Ukraine’s digital infrastructure could be felt in the UK – UK businesses are targeted daily by ransomware attacks from criminals overseas. If the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate we could see cyber-attacks that have international consequences, whether intentional or not. Rising tensions in the region, with the risk of overspill are why the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) has said the cyber risk ‘has risen’ in the past month, although at this time there is no evidence of the UK being specifically targeted. That said, past Russian cyber activity has included attempted interference against UK media, telecoms and energy infrastructure, and cyber criminals in Russia have targeted well-known firms in recent high-profile attacks.

Ukraine has a long history of being the victim of significant cyber-attacks with international consequences. Malware used by the Russian military to target Ukrainian critical infrastructure spiraled recklessly out control to affect many other countries including the UK. Some organisation’s business operations were crippled, and IT systems shut down. With cyber-attacks on the rise in Ukraine at the start of 2022 the NCSC published updated guidance on their website setting out what organisations should be doing with their cyber defences at times of heightened international tension. On the 14th Feb, a number of websites belonging to Ukraine’s armed forces and state banks fell victim to attack (no impact in the UK). But these attacks should be a reminder to UK businesses/organisations to take the threat seriously. The UK could be a potential target, having taken a leading role in calling out Putin’s aggression and threatening consequences in the event of an invasion.

A reminder of key advice – ensure systems are patched, check back-ups/restore mechanisms, improve access controls & enabling multi-factor authentication, ensure online defences are working, keep current with the latest threat/mitigation information and have effective/robust incident response plans in place. Organisations should consider accelerating plans to raise their cyber resilience in the longer term. Regardless of the potential threat posed by Ukraine cyber threats will persist and now is the time to build greater resilience for the future – the response should be proportionate to an organisation’s size. No doubt some business leaders will thinks its all too difficult and likely expensive. However, given the potential impact breaches can have, all business leaders are advised to take the threat seriously and make their organisations as resilient as possible especially in the current climate.

If you require any help or advice, please contact Valkyrie at E:  | T: +44 (0) 20 7499 9323.

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