Homeland Security warns U.S. businesses to be prepared for Russian cyberattacks

The world has watched in horror at images of the conflict in Ukraine. But cybersecurity experts warn the next attack could be much less visible – a widespread cyber attack.

"Once you unleash it you have no control where it’s going to go. That’s the problem. It could go through the whole world because we are connected," said Professor Ahmed Banafa, a cybersecurity expert at San Jose State University.

Banafa said the U.S. is a target, and it’s important for government agencies and businesses to protect sensitive information. Banafa said, "For us here in the United States the worry is infrastructure."

He pointed out the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in 2021 as an example, when Russia-linked hackers took down the largest fuel pipeline in the country.

So far, there have been reports of cyberattacks on Ukrainian government websites and banks.

"I think it’s just an ongoing threat," said retired FBI agent Rick Smith. For 20 years, Smith was the supervisor of the Russian Counterintelligence Squad in San Francisco. He believes Russia’s focus remains on Ukraine at the moment but security forces are always thinking ahead and looking for vulnerabilities.

Smith said, "They are so aggressive and their intelligence service is so important to the way they operate. They are always looking for opportunities."

During a press briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if a cyberattack on a NATO ally would invoke Article 5. Article 5 would commit members to take action, seeing this as an attack on all of them.

Psaki said. "A cyber attack does constitute an attack, so that would be a point of discussion among NATO members."

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