Ron Sharon

Cybersecurity and Technology Leader

Cybersecurity expert shares information on cyber threats

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Drew Butler dbutler@cherryroad.com

Thursday, April 14 marked the opening of the 2022 season of the Southern Oklahoma Leaders Luncheon hosted by the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce. Guest Speaker Mike Jackson, cybersecurity and infrastructure security advisor for Oklahoma with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), addresses the crowd about the cyber threats currently facing all businesses and organizations. One message he repeated multiple times is that when it comes to a cyber attack, it’s not a matter of if one happens to your business, it’s a matter of when it happens.

“Just think of it like a tornado in Oklahoma,” Jackson said. “It’s not if, it’s when.”

Jackson said CISA partners with organizations with the priority of helping to secure critical infrastructure sections.

“What you need to understand about critical infrastructure is that it’s an organization or the services or product that an organization provides that are critical to the operations of our country or sustainment of our democracy,” he said.

Some of these key critical infrastructure areas include commercial facilities, manufacturing facilities, communications networks and businesses, and financial institutions among others.

“Right now every organization is at risk,” Jackson said. “Not just big organizations, not just the government, but every organization is at risk. One of the reasons why is many organizations provide direct assistance to our direct defense such as products or services to our government. Another reason is an attack can diminish the state diminish the state of our democracy and allow foreign adversaries to disrupt our economy.”

Examples of such foreign adversaries include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

One example of an attack includes ransomware which can lock down an organization’s cyber capabilities until a certain amount of money is paid.

“When ransomware first started out it was very specialized, very individualized, very targeted and had to have an organization that was very skilled to pull it off,” Jackson said. “There were very few individuals who had the skills to pull it off. Now they have ransomware as a service. Now a person can get online, look up a ransomeware group and tell a hacker some information such as an administrative password, an IP address or some other piece of useful information, and they will broker a deal.”

He said these deals can cost as little as $800 or $1,000. If successful, the person who paid for the attack may even be able to get a portion of the ransom.

Jackson noted that cyber attacks can also affect the physical world outside of cyberspace.

“Now we’re looking at the fact that they can infect affect physical systems,” he said. “Cyberattacks have been launched to cause explosions in critical manufacturing. You can get online and see simulated attacks where automobile organizations that have smart components can cause breaks to come on when a person is driving or even cause the speedometer to speed up. If it has an electronic or addressable component, it can be attacked.”

Jackson said all organizations should have security in place that is regularly updated and tested to help mitigate the risk of an attack, but they should also have a plan in place for if an attack happens.

“The first thing you need to do is get an incident management process in place,” he said. “You would rather be prepared and make those decisions in preparation than you would to make those decisions in the haste of response.”

He suggested visiting cisa.gov to find out current information about what types of attacks are currently taking place as well as to see information about how to mitigate your organization’s risk.