How Australian businesses can fortify against Russian cyber attacks

Following the escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has warned Australian businesses to “urgently adopt an enhanced cyber-security posture” to protect themselves against targeted Russian cybercriminal activity.

Given the distance between our two countries, cyber attacks are the most effective way that Russia can punish Australia for supporting Ukraine. As a result, Australian businesses are currently at a very real risk of disruption or malicious activities from Russian cyber criminals.

These threats could come in the form of denial of service attacks – which Russia has used in the past during its cyber warfare against Estonia in 2007 – or in the form of ransomware attacks that can be deployed via phishing emails. These attacks, if successful, can put Australian organisations at risk of irrevocable financial, operational and reputational damage.

Australian businesses and individuals are already under significant siege from cyber attacks with the Office of Australian of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) noting that 55 per cent of the 256 data breaches from July to December 2021 were a result of malicious or criminal attacks, and 68 per cent of those were cyber attacks.

How can Australian business protect themselves?

Australian businesses need to act now to ensure their cyber security posture is in place and up to date to ward off any potential attacks. It’s not a matter of if but when. Businesses need to take the following steps immediately to ensure their safety.

Incident detection, mitigation and response

The most important step in ensuring enhanced cybersecurity posture is having the right measures in place to detect, mitigate and respond to security incidents.

Firms need the right tools in place to identify any suspicious activity. Similar to how physical locations use back-to-base alarm systems, businesses can benefit from the use of cyber security consultants, who can watch over your networks 24/7, 365 days a year.

If suspicious activity is identified, a response team can be launched into action to mitigate the threat before it transforms into a breach or attack. If a breach has already occurred, a team of cyber security experts can help businesses recover from any repercussions.

Communicate within your organisation

Human error continues to be the weakest link in an organisation when it comes to upholding information security. Businesses must educate and alert their employees about the likelihood of advanced phishing attacks, misinformation campaigns, and attempts by Russian malicious actors to compromise systems and networks within their organisation.

Along with communicating the threat to employees, it is also important to ensure that regular security training and awareness programs are in place for existing and newly on boarded staff. By doing this, organisations can reduce their chances of falling prey to a cyber attack.

Re-evaluate privileged access

With the increased risk of cyber threats, now is an opportune time for any organisation’s information security team to re-evaluate and investigate all new software and accounts – especially those with high privileges. This, along with stronger authentication and overall identity and privilege access management, can ensure your business is safe.

Enhance basic cyber security hygiene

Organisations must leverage this opportunity to improve their basic cyber security hygiene to protect their systems and networks from any cyber attack. Cybersecurity teams can ensure this is achieved by enforcing the following measures at all levels of the organisation:

  • Installing reputable antivirus and malware software
  • Keeping software and applications up to date with the latest patches installed,
  • Enforcing employees to use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication
  • Making sure all data is encrypted while at rest and in transit and sufficiently backing up.

The time to act is now. A cyber attack can have devastating consequences on a business and I strongly urge organisations of all sizes to take this opportunity to improve their cyber detection and response and be proactive in protecting themselves now and in the future.

Ajay Unni is the founder of StickmanCyber, a business that helps companies mitigate their cyber-security risks. Ajay named the company after the countless stick figures he used in flow charts, throughout his years in the software and cyber-security industry. Ajay Unni has over 30+ years’ IT industry experience, with over 15 years as a cyber-security specialist.