Gorbea warns of imminent Russian cyberattacks on small businesses

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said Tuesday that the state’s small businesses should beware of a Russian cyberattack that could cripple information technology systems.

Gorbea, who was advised by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, warned that the threats of a cyberattack are imminent.

“I want Rhode Island businesses to know that I received an unclassified briefing from the Department of Homeland Security saying that there is an imminent threat of cyber attacks in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” she said, noting that the warning was given to Homeland Security by the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

“When they tell you that something is imminent you have to be very, very cautious and careful, and take it seriously,” she said.

Gorbea said she learned of the potential cyber threats from the Department of Homeland Security during the annual winter meetings of the National Association of Secretaries of States last week.

“I wanted to make sure that Rhode Island businesses, which are mostly small businesses, are aware of the information, the resources, and best practices to protect themselves,” she said.

Gorbea said a cyberattack typically involves a phishing email that creates an opportunity for hackers to scam a recipient.

“So, your best defense against that is having a backup system,” she said. “That way you don’t have to negotiate with terrorists.”

Gorbea said that small businesses often don’t have the staff or resources to protect their information technology systems from cybercrimes or recover from an attack. With information technology evolving so rapidly it is hard for business to keep up with the evolution and maintain their system protections, she said.

“Most business owners know how to run a business, they don’t necessarily know about IT infrastructure, or security,” she said.

If a business owner is the victim of a cyberattack, Gorbea said they should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Rhode Island State Police for assistance.

Gorbea said the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division can assist people with information technology related resources and free online training courses to avoid being scammed. She also said the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency offer online training courses in a variety of fields on their websites.

“There is a lot going on in people’s lives right now,” she said. “I just want to make sure that Rhode Island small businesses take care of themselves, and pay attention to this, because these are very challenging times. The last thing we need coming out of the pandemic is to have a cyberattack cripple a system, and lead to loss of productivity and profits.”

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at [email protected]. You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.

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