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Cybersecurity Threats in the Wake of Russian Invasion

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REBEKAH ROBINSON, HOST: This morning, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Ukrainian government websites were also under attack. Nearby countries in Eastern Europe are also reporting computers infected with destructive malware.

Steven Bellovin is a professor of computer science at Columbia University where he also serves on the Data Science Institute Cybersecurity committee. He says this week’s cyberattacks included a range of threats to information and computer infrastructure and could have implications for cybersecurity here in New York.

STEVEN BELLOVIN: The stuff we've seen happening thus far is a denial of service flooding sites with traffic, wiping discs, and so on. There are more subtle attacks that are possible. But we haven't seen those just quite yet, but it’s strongly connected to Ukraine. But certainly, there's the potential for all sorts of mischief going on right because the governments of the world all major in some intermediate or minor governments, has developed much more robust attack capabilities. Add to that Russia's very capable core of cyber irregulars, the criminal gangs that are tolerated by the Kremlin, as long as they don't attack within Russia, well, they'll just give it a green light and even encouragement to go attack the US, Western Europe, Central Europe, etc. So I think that, you know, we're certainly in a heightened period of danger right now.

REBEKAH ROBINSON, BYLINE: In this moment of cyber warfare Governor Kathy Hochul has recently announced the creation of the Joint Security Operations Center in Brooklyn, in response to concerns of potential cybersecurity attacks here in New York. The center, which is the first of its kind in the country, plans to create a united effort to fight cybersecurity across all levels of government. Could this center be a model for the rest of the country, especially in preparing for potential cyber-attacks, or cyber threats?

BELLOVIN: You know, the information sharing is of some benefit, but not as important as getting good defenses in place and good ability to recover in place. That's what I want to see. I want to see education on what you should be doing assistance in doing what you should be doing, and assistance and recovery once you're attacked. But again, once you're attacked, then the horse is stolen is too late to close the barn door. And, you know, sharing information about threats, yeah, well, that's good. But what are you going to do with the information? You need concrete actionable information that goes beyond the generic.

ROBINSON: Why is New York specially positioned to take on this effort or to bring about the center?

BELLOVIN: So New York is going to be a very large target for some of this, because its hub is the financial center of the world, certainly of the country. And finance. Well, finance is critical infrastructure, the Port of New York is critical infrastructure. And just the density of businesses and everything else here in the city makes it an attractive target, but also means that the city and the state have the resources to do more,

ROBINSON: Professor Steven Bellovin serves on the cybersecurity committee at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute.

Rebekah Robinson, Uptown Radio News

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