What if the lights go out? Or A.T.M. networks go down? Or digital giants like Google that I trust with vital information come under attack?
These are normal questions to have right now, as Russian tanks move through Ukraine and upend our expectations of global stability. After all, Russia and those who might act on its behalf have already shown the ability to strike our digital infrastructure, and we don’t know what President Vladimir V. Putin might be willing to do if escalating sanctions make him feel cornered.
But first, let’s be clear about one thing: There’s no sign of immediate danger to you. That’s not true for people who live in Ukraine or have had to flee, so consider helping them first if you can.
National security officials say there have been no specific, credible cyberthreats against the United States homeland. The United States also maintains its own extensive cybercapabilities, including forays into the Russian electrical grid, that could make Mr. Putin wary of setting off a kind of mutually assured disruption.
However, the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has urged organizations and individuals to be prepared for the possibility that the situation could change.
It has name-checked industries and organizations at particular risk, including coronavirus researchers and the health, pharmaceutical, defense, energy, video-game and aviation industries. Some of those are not surprising: Federal officials suspect that Russian nationals were behind ransomware efforts like the ones that led to fuel shortages in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown last year and technology meltdowns at hospitals in 2020.
The good news — if there can be any at a global moment like this one — is that many of the precautions you should be taking now are the same ones you’d take in preparation for a natural disaster or any power outage. Others are the kinds of things you should be doing no matter what.
Defending (and Duplicating) Your Data
Digital brinkmanship involving global powers may leave you feeling that there’s only so much you can do to help. But good digital hygiene really is its own form of civil defense.
The hacking of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign began with something we can all understand: a phishing email requesting a password change. If you work in any kind of sensitive job, you could be vulnerable too, even on personal email.