Officials urge New Yorkers to protect themselves from Russian cyber attacks

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Monday, March 7, 2022
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As threats from Russia grow, New York City officials are joining together to provide guidance on defending against cyber attacks

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As threats from Russia grow, New York City officials are joining together to provide guidance on defending against cyber attacks.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand joined NYC Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller and NYC Comptroller Brad Lander on Monday morning to highlight cyber-security resources available to businesses across the five boroughs.

Officials have warned Russia could use cyber attacks in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the United States. Miller said the threat to NYC and its critical infrastructure is always high, but NYC is currently on "ultra high alert."

Miller said that normally the city is on "high alert" for cyber attacks, but a difference between "high" and "ultra high" alert is that they can attribute possible cyber threats to "state actors."

Miller said 85% of critical infrastructure -- water, power and transport -- is privately run.

When tensions rise between the U.S. and Russia, so does the threat for tactical and strategic cyberattacks, Miller said.

"The Russian state actor, when tensions rise, increases malicious cyber attacks from both tactical -- to disable systems that may be running against them from an adversary -- and strategic -- to be able to put pressure on other entities, be they allies or people in their interest to disable," Miller said. "So we get that we are in a heightened threat and we have been gearing up for that heightened threat to come along from our normal high alert to ultra high alert and that's where we are, and its working."

Given New York's role as the economic engine and financial center of the United States, New Yorkers face an increased risk of cyber attacks from Russia.

When asked if there have been any potential direct Russian cyber attacks against New York, Fraser said that "we have seen an uptick (in cyber threats), but we are not aware of any campaign that's explicitly targeting the city itself."

Gillibrand said that the cyberattack against the MTA last April raised concerns regarding the potential vulnerabilities of the city's infrastructure cyber protection. With ongoing Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine, Gillibrand said the level of risk domestically is now "as high as I've ever seen it."

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"There is no guarantee that those attacks will be limited to Ukraine," said Gillibrand. The decision to impose sanctions on Russia puts the country at an "increased risk that Russia will carry out retaliatory cyberattacks particularly against New York state infrastructure and individuals," she said.

The officials outlined the 3 S's of Cyber Safety to help New Yorkers protect themselves during this time of increased threat and highlight additional cybersecurity resources for New York businesses:

SECURE YOUR ACCOUNTS

-Use a strong password.
-Use a different password for each account.
-Turn on two-factor authentication. This security feature requires you to enter a login code sent by text message or generated by an app. So even if hackers steal your password, they won't be able to log in without that code.
-Don't forget social media. Protecting your banking, retirement, investment, and work accounts is important, but don't forget to protect your social media accounts too! Hacked accounts are used to send spam, scam your friends and family, and spread disinformation for foreign governments.

SOFTWARE UPDATES

-Update your devices ASAP

-Accept updates for your devices, software, and apps as soon as they are available to make sure you have the latest security updates installed.

STAY VIGILANT

-Be vigilant, be suspicious
-Most cyber attackers don't hack into your accounts - they try to trick you into letting them in. Be suspicious of emails and DMs like those that ask you to click links, promise free stuff, or make urgent demands or threats.

"New Yorkers stand with Ukrainians fleeing from Russia's invasion and New York's vibrant Ukrainian population, Lander said. "In the 21st century, so much of our daily lives and critical infrastructure are connected to technology and we need to be prepared for online threats to our financial and public safety. New York must take action now individually and collectively to guard against cyberattacks that seek to gain access to our financial and personal information and shore up our public infrastructure against disruptive attacks."

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