After annexing Crimea, Russia's activities in and near an unstable Ukraine have caused concerns over the potential for large-scale conflict or even war. Any loss of life as a result of political unrest is tragic, but the devastating effects of a conflict don't end there. War and political tensions have a wide-reaching influence throughout various sectors, with ripple effects touching deeply on oil trade, food and commodities sales, economic stability, and more.
For businesses throughout the world, a conflict like the one currently playing out in Ukraine can have another perhaps surprising consequence: They might see spikes in cybercrime as a result of political and military activities.
When battles rage, fortify your malware security
According to CSO Online, research recently released by security vendor FireEye revealed a strong correlation between malware attacks and military conflict. In other words, within countries were involved in political tensions or seemed poised to go to war, malicious activity increased, with targets located throughout the world. Consequently, business leaders should be particularly vigilant in all of their secure file sharing and other network components during these times.
"Global malware activity is likely to rise and fall with geopolitical conflict," said Kenneth Geers, a senior global threat analyst at FireEye, according to the source. "System administrators should be on the lookout for increased malware activity during times of geopolitical tension."
Case in point, the report indicated that Russia had the largest increase in malware callbacks so far this year, indicating that the activity started in that country, particularly during the month of March, which is when President Vladimir Putin officially annexed the peninsula. Ukraine also saw a jump, increasing from No. 12 to No. 9 among countries ranked for callbacks.
What's the relationship between war and cyberattacks? It's not just that the country's law enforcement agencies are distracted by other concerns, opening the door to stronger underground crime syndicates. The source explained that governments might even encourage cybercriminal activity in an effort to inflict harm on their geopolitical enemies or facilitate espionage efforts.
"If they (countries) are about to go to war, you're going to see the national security requirements increase significantly, as well as the authorization to collect information," Geers said. "You're going to see a loosened rein and more activity."
Although companies should be vigilant about data security at all times and implement strong solutions, such as managed file transfer offerings, it's worth paying attention to the political landscape to stay abreast of possible surges in threats.