MY TAKE: Rising geopolitical tensions suggest a dire need for tighter cybersecurity in 2024

By Byron V. Acohido

Russia’s asymmetrical cyber-attacks have been a well-documented, rising global concern for most of the 2000s.

Related: Cybersecurity takeaways of 2023

I recently visited with Mihoko Matsubara, Chief Cybersecurity Strategist at NTT to discuss why this worry has climbed steadily over the past few years – and is likely to intensify in 2024.

The wider context is all too easy to overlook. Infamous cyber opsattributed to Russia-backed hackers fall into a pattern that’s worth noting:

Cyber attacks on Estonia (2007) Websites of Estonian banks, media outlets and government bodies get knocked down in a dispute over a Soviet-era war memorial.

Cyber attacks on Georgia (2008, 2019) Georgian government websites get defaced; thousands of government and private websites get blocked, including two major TV stations.

Ukrainian power grid take downs (2015, 2016) The capitol city of Kyiv suffers widespread, extended outages.

U.S. presidential election interference (2016) The personal accounts of Clinton staffers get hacked; disinformation supporting Trump gets widely disseminated via social media.

French presidential election Interference (2017) Leaks and fake news is similarly spread in attempts to influence the presidential election.

Solar Winds hack (2020) Supply chain connections for thousands of federal agencies and large enterprises get swiftly, deeply compromised.

-•MOVEit hack (2023) File sharing hook-ups for thousands of enterprises get compromised, triggering class action lawsuits.

It’s not just Russia. Other milestone nation-state cyber-attacks include Titan Rain (China 2003 – 2006,) Stuxnet (U.S and Israel, 2005 – 2010,) Operation Aurora (China, 2009,) the Sony Pictures hack (North Korea, 2015,) and WannaCry (North Korea, 2017.)

Matsubara

Matsubara is a former Japanese Ministry of Defense official who previously served as Palo Alto Networks’ VP and Public Sector Chief Security Officer for Asia-Pacific and, before that, as Intel’s Cyber Security Policy Director. We discussed how Russia in 2023 began synchronizing asymmetrical attacks with kinetic military operations — targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure with both missile strikes and advanced power grid hacks.

Matsubara warns that geopolitical tension often entails cyber espionage and disruption. Such a playbook could come into play in the Middle East and Taiwan as well.

For a full drill down, please view the accompanying videocast.

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Matsubara observes that company leaders would do well look beyond basic cyber hygiene and adopt a more holistic approach to protecting their networks.

Given geopolitical conflicts of the moment, pressure from adversaries isexpected to intensify, going forward. Regulators are responding by implementing stricter data privacy and supply chain security standards. This means company leaders must do their due diligence.

The good news is that AI is coming into play across the board — in cybersecurity innovations to harden software code, manage cloud access and even make encryption more flexible and resilient. Company leaders can and should lean into AI as they select and implement leading-edge security tools and services, she says.

For small and medium-sized organizations that lack the resources of large enterprises, the challenge is acute, as their role in the supply chain makes them prime targets for strategic cyber disruptions. Matsubara sees managed security services as a lifeline enabling smaller companies to cost-effectively boost their cyber resiliency.

Company decision makers responsible for cybersecurity certainly have their plates full in the coming year. I’ll keep watch and keep reporting.

Acohido

Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.


(LW provides consulting services to the vendors we cover.)

 

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