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Expert: Russian Hackers Might Attack Huntsville, Ala.

A cybersecurity researcher believes that the likelihood of Russian hackers targeting Huntsville's power and Internet grid will continue to grow as the U.S. condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

(TNS) — Russian hackers could attack Huntsville’s power and Internet grid if America keeps applying pressure against its invasion of Ukraine, a cybersecurity researcher says.

But a more serious attack on the city, Redstone Arsenal or the surrounding community “seems unlikely,” Dr. Tommy Morris of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said today. “Hackers can make the lights go off,” Morris said, but going further would be self-defeating. “Russia attacking U.S. critical infrastructure in a way that affects our society seems unlikely to me because we would know where the attack came from and we might respond in kind,” Morris said.

There is one possible exception, Morris said, and that’s the American financial system. “Banks send money electronically with systems developed a relatively long time ago,” he said. “These systems are vulnerable, and criminals have been able to steal large amounts of money. Since many of the recent sanctions are financial in nature, Russia and their proxies could attempt to steal money by attacking these financial transfer systems.”

Morris is interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System.

He said another growing threat is “attacks on cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, etc., wallets.” Wallets are the electronic storage areas for cryptocurrency owners.

“If you are dabbling in cryptocurrency, be careful,” Morris said. “This theft is extremely hard to trace, and there are no protections such as you might get from a credit card company or from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for a bank account.”

Protecting yourself from cyber attack is mostly about using “good cyber hygiene” and not being an easy target, Morris said. Use complex passwords and change passwords regularly. Don’t use the same password for all accounts and install a virus scanner on your computer and make sure it runs. Don’t click on links in emails.

Huntsville is a national defense center — a “Federal Center of Excellence” in government parlance — with many “high-value target areas” for its leading national roles in missiles, lasers, helicopters and drones, Morris said.

Cyber attacks on the power and computer systems that support those roles “are not governed by mutually assured destruction like nuclear bombs,” Morris said. That’s one reason, along with their low expense, that cyber attacks are so popular.

The arsenal’s research and development in logistics and supply, intelligence and law enforcement make the arsenal, “businesses in the area and even our home networks high-value targets,” Morris said. “Our home networks are targets because our family members work at Redstone or local companies involved in the high-value target areas.”

Suspected Russian hackers have been linked to big attacks on America, Morris said. The SolarWinds attack in 2020 hit federal government agencies. Ransomware attacks shut down a major fuel pipeline and disrupted operations at JBS, a large meat packaging plant.

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