Governor Kathy Hochul has warned New Yorkers to be aware of cyberattacks on their personal accounts because of “current geopolitical uncertainty” as federal officials fear an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hochul said in a statement Sunday she has convened cabinet members to review the state’s institutions and critical infrastructure, and is in touch with the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Biden administration has voiced concerns over potential cyberattacks from Russia and Russian-backed parties if the United States imposes sanctions as a response to aggression against Ukraine.
Those attacks could focus on New York, Hochul said.
“The reality is that because New York State is a leader in the finance, healthcare, energy, and transportation sectors, our state is an attractive target for cyber criminals and foreign adversaries,” she said in the statement.
Last year, the city Law Department’s computer servers were hacked in June 2021, which disrupted operations. Investigators have not identified suspects. The MTA also revealed it was among several organizations that were hacked in April 2021 by operators reportedly linked to China. An audit conducted by two cybersecurity firms found no evidence that anything had been disrupted or customer or employee data was stolen in the MTA breach.
Russia has been blamed for a long string of cyber attacks against the United States, including breaches of the Treasury Department and other federal agencies, the targeting of electric utilities, and the hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.
Federal officials have called on private companies to prepare for any potential threats. “I cannot stress this enough: We urge our private-sector partners to exercise incident response plans and put in place cybersecurity defenses, like encryption and multi-factor authentication, that make cyberattacks harder for even sophisticated cyber actors,” White House Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said Friday at a press briefing.
Hochul said her recent proposed $216 billion state budget allocated $62 million for cybersecurity protections.
“It is my top priority to keep New Yorkers safe, and we will remain vigilant by continuing to monitor for threats and ramping up our cybersecurity shields as necessary,” Hochul added.
“New Yorkers should also remember they are vulnerable to cyberattacks on their personal devices, and I encourage them to use best practices around passwords and multi-factor authentication, and to make sure that older loved ones are protected from scams.”