US prepares cyber defences as threat of Russian attacks growsVish Gainon March 8, 2022 at 09:34 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Three cybersecurity companies have joined hands to offer many of their products and services to US critical infrastructure companies for free, in anticipation of growing cyberattacks from Russia in response to sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

Cloudflare, CrowdStrike and Ping Identity, all publicly-listed US companies that offer software products in the security space, announced the Critical Infrastructure Defense Project yesterday (7 March) to help US hospitals and water and energy utilities bolster their cyber defences.

While focusing on these three industries, identified as “particularly vulnerable”, the project will also help businesses in any industry with an easy-to-follow roadmap to taking measures that can protect them from any Russian cyberattacks.

Matther Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, said that critical infrastructure in the US was in a state of “heightened security risk” and that it is “more important than ever” for the security industry to step in and help the country be prepared.

The project focuses on what is known as a ‘zero trust’ approach in which no device or individual, whether internal or external, is exempt from security protocols and verification before entering a network.

Prince said the three companies will “offer a broad suite of our products for free for at least the next four months” to any US hospital or water and energy utility as part of the project that has been launched in collaboration with various public sector bodies.

This move comes amid a broader response from multinational tech companies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including Big Tech, social media, streaming, payment services, and the gaming industry.

Growing threat from Russia

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), which monitors government-backed cybersecurity threats, has revealed details of new threats to Ukraine over the past two weeks “largely emanating from Russia”, including well-known actors such as FancyBear and Ghostwriter.

FancyBear, which first came to international attention in 2018, has conducted “several large credential phishing campaigns” targeting users of UkrNet, a Ukrainian media company.

Meanwhile, Belarus-based Ghostwriter, has also been conducting phishing campaigns over the past week against Polish and Ukrainian government and military organisaitons. Last week, the state-sponsored actor targeted EU officials trying to manage refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Mustang Panda, also known as Temp.Hex, is a Chinese group that has joined in with the barrage cyberattacks by targeting European entities by sending them malware files that claim to contain details of the situation at EU borders with Ukraine.

Google said that the targeting of European organisations is unusual for Mustang Panda, which is known to focus much of its cyberattacks in the south-east Asia region. TAG said it has alerted relevant authorities of the findings and taken measures to mitigate threats from all three actors.

In response, Google has expanded eligibility for Project Shield, which offers free protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, so that Ukrainian government websites and embassies, as well as those of other countries helping, can stay online and protect themselves.

While Ukraine has borne the brunt of cyberattacks from Russia, the US hasn’t been spared from its fair share of threats.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that more than 100 employees of almost two dozen natural gas companies in the US were found to have been hacked by Russian actors in mid-February and just before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Targetted companies include Chevron, Cheniere Energy and Kinder Morgan, and the discovery was made by Los Angeles-based security company Resecurity.

The cyberattacks focused on companies that supplied and exported liquefied natural gas, an increasingly critical sector in the energy industry, which saw their computers compromised.

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