Russia's cybersecurity may now be in jeopardy as a result of its aggressive actions in the Ukraine, according to a report Monday from the Moscow Times. The Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) and other major tech providers are expected to sever ties with Russian companies to comply with U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia, leaving them defenseless against the next major cybersecurity flaw, like last month's Heartbleed bug.
The tech companies have already joined government sanctions against Russian banks and are now expected to completely stop cooperating with them, the report said, citing IT-department employees at two separate Russian banks and Andrei Chernogorov, executive secretary of the State Duma’s commission on strategic information systems.
Russian companies can still use software they own, but all “technical support will be stopped,” Maxim Andreyev, director of business at IT firm CROC Inc., told the newspaper. That means the banks will not receive updates or software patches for new security flaws, like last month's devastating Heartbleed bug.
Most of the banks refused to comment on the story, but Russia’s InvestCapitalBank told the newspaper it had “not yet received and written notifications from IT companies.” U.S. software occupies the majority of the Russian market, and the country’s banks rely often on Oracle databases, which Andreyev called “essentially the standard in the banking sector.”
Mere weeks after the Heartbleed bug put the passwords and private information of billions of Internet users worldwide at risk, a flaw was found that affected every modern version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser. The bug allowed hackers to spy and install software on affected computers, and Microsoft originally said it would not patch the bug for computers running its retired Windows XP operating system but later did an about-face and opted to fix it for all.
Former U.S. security officials said Tuesday that if the nation moves toward heavier sanctions against Russia, then the country will likely respond with cyberattacks, according to the Huffington Post. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. and Ukraine should work together to defend against Russian cyberattacks.
“We’ve seen [them] use [cyberwarfare] in Georgia. We’ve seen some elements of that being used in Crimea,” Panetta said, according to the report. “If [Russia] has an attack plan, a cyber element is very much a part of that attack plan. It takes down communications, takes down missile systems, takes down the counterattack.”
Panetta said computers were the “battleground of the future” in cyber warfare, and cited those that run the U.S. electrical grid as well as chemical, water, transportation and financial systems. He said Russia is eclipsed only by the U.S. in its cyber-warfare abilities.
Follow Reporter Thomas Halleck on Twitter