Cybersecurity Update: Russia’s Invasion Raises Cyber Concerns
A year ago, I wrote this article describing the increase in cyber threats people around the world were experiencing due to the global pandemic, and how cybercriminals see the wave of crisis as an opportunity for personal gain. That article was mostly about the protection of personal identity and data, and how to spot and avoid phishing scams.
Today, a different cyber threat is making headlines that would cast a much broader net and seek to disrupt large institutions more than personal accounts and identities. Russia – long understood to be a hub for many cyberattacks, both underground and government-sponsored – has made threats recently towards any countries that interfere with their invasion of Ukraine. Many experts believe one of Russia’s retaliation efforts would come in the form of cyberattacks on various institutions within the interfering country.
That heightened possibility has led some to ask a couple of different questions. The first question being asked is, “what can I do to better protect myself from such an attack?” Others have asked, “what are the financial institutions and brokerage companies doing to protect my accounts?”
We’ll address the first question, first. These are things you can do to help protect your various accounts and devices from cyberattacks regardless of origin:
- Update your software on your phone, tablet, and computers (including often-overlooked web browsers). And use antivirus software for added protection.
- Routinely backup your data, preferably to an external hard drive or disk. Cloud storage is a common and convenient method for storing backed-up data but keeping critical documents on a separate drive or disk offers better security against institutional breaches.
- Enable multi-factor authentication on your digital accounts (i.e., email, social media channels, online financial accounts, etc.).
- Update passwords that may be old, weak, or repetitive. Include alpha-numeric combinations with special characters and upper/lowercase letters. Also, avoid using words that are easily connected to you or the account.
- Think before you click. Double-check links to make sure you trust and recognize the URL. Avoid sharing data via email or text, such as account numbers, credit card info, or social security numbers.
- Watch for a rise in scams. As stated in my previous article, a crisis creates fertile ground for new “charitable scams.” If you want to help, donate to recognized and reputable charities, and do so directly through that organization’s website or phone number.
- Stay informed. Check your financial account statements regularly. Also, use resources like staysafeonline.org, www.schwab.com/schwabsafe, and www.consumer.ftc.gov.
As your wealth management advisor, we’re always here to help answer your questions. And, if you believe you’ve become a victim of a cybercrime, let us know and we can work with you to limit the impact.
With regards to the second question, what are brokerage companies doing to secure my accounts? here are some points to keep in mind. All institutions registered with the SEC have invested in robust systems with highly trained staff in the areas of privacy and security. They utilize enhanced monitoring and testing to snuff out attacks as quickly as possible, including those related to the eastern European conflict. Each of these companies provides multiple security features for their customers to protect account data, and they work collaboratively with other financial services organizations and government agencies to combat cybercrime.
Regardless of their origin or the intended target, cyberattacks are becoming more commonplace each day. Being diligent in your online activity and staying aware of your transactions are your best defense. At Richard P. Slaughter Associates, protection of your personal data and investments has always been a top priority. And, if you wish to discuss any of these points in further detail, we’d be happy to hear from you.