Governor: Texas must protect against cyber threats during Russian aggression

Online security
Photo credit dusanpetkovic/Getty Images

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to an increased potential for cyber warfare. As such, Abbott said he has ordered the Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of Information Resources to "use every available resource to safeguard the state’s critical infrastructure" against cyber attacks.

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"Protecting the state of Texas from cyber threats during this time of Russian aggression is paramount," Abbott wrote in a letter to the agencies.

"It's real," Michael Moore, founder and chief executive of Southlake's M3 Networks said. "It is not, certainly, fake news that Russia is, in fact, using this global situation they've created by attacking Ukraine to also declare cyber-war on Ukraine and America and its allies."

M3 Networks provides IT support to small and mid-size companies.

Moore says Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea have long sponsored cybercriminals, and they are becoming bolder and more sophisticated.

"They want to damage American infrastructure like water systems, stoplights, banking," Moore said. "Pretty much anything is going through the roof."

Moore said cyber criminals will seek out one vulnerability in a company's system or find one person who can be exploited. That gives the criminal access to launch an attack.

"You can buy cybercriminals online, and it's very inexpensive," Moore said. "The way most cybercrimes start is they send out a wide, wide net."

Moore said people can protect themselves by choosing "pass-phrases" instead of passwords. He said using spaces and a mix of words can be easier to remember than one random word interspersed with a number or symbol.

"Just subtle, little changes like that you want to make that are, in some cases, easier to do, not more difficult," Moore said.

Moore said simply using the latest virus protection or expanding your business' IT department is not adequate.

"It's a lot like saying, 'As soon as I got my gym membership, I'm done,'" Moore said. "No, no, no. You just got the gym membership. Now, you've got to start putting in the workouts."

Moore said a list of recommendations developed by hacker Kevin Mitnick can prove useful for individuals and businesses:

1. Use passphrases instead of passwords
2. Use encryption and multi-factor authentication on every password and log-in on every device
3. Watch out for phishing scams
4. Stop reusing passwords – your laziness benefits the hackers
5. Enact organization-wide password protection through a password manager such as 1Password, Dashlane, Lastpass, or Roboform 
6. And most important: Change from using passwords to using pass phrases, preferably 25 or more characters
7. Improve your offboarding process – when an employee (particularly if disgruntled) leaves, that former employee has your passwords protocol, so update it
8. Avoid public Wifi whenever possible

Governor Greg Abbott issued a list of "critical actions" for DPS and the Department of Information Resources to take:

- Enhance Texas’ cyber security through the use of best industry practices and other key measures.
- Ensure Texas can quickly detect a potential cyber intrusion through the use of software services, such as antivirus and endpoint detection and response technologies.
- Prepare for an intrusion by utilizing a cyber incident response team.
- Maximize the state’s resilience to a destructive cyber incident.
- Track and report any attacks from Russian sources so the public is fully aware of their tactics.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: dusanpetkovic/Getty Images