As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and creates further global tensions, the White House took an opportunity on Monday to remind Americans of the broader implications of the economic sanctions that the U.S. has placed on Russia. A realistic retaliation by Russia could well take the form of various cyberattacks.

The Situation:The Biden-Harris Administration assures that steps have been taken to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses but warns that “much of the country’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and the private must act to protect the critical services on which all Americans rely.”

While it might not seem that the promotional products industry is a likely target for Russian cyberattacks, successful cyberattacks often target any prominent industry or company that leaves itself vulnerable.

• The White House has laid out steps that it urges companies to take to make them less vulnerable to cyberattacks, both now and in the future.
• While not affecting the promotional products marketplace specifically, the industry has already been impacted by one cyber attack already this year, when freight giant Expeditors was targeted in February.

Recommendation: PPAI’s Director of Information Technology Paul Elfstrom says these threats are so important to guard against, but promo companies can better protect themselves.

“If you don’t have multiple cyber security tools in place by now, you’re in trouble,” Elfstrom says. “Endpoint security for workstations and servers, vulnerability scanning tools, patch management, spam filtering and multi-factor authentication for email are a must-have. The list goes on. It’s the world we live in.

“Most cyber-attacks also rely on human interaction. Company employees have various levels of access to systems throughout your organization. They also engaged with resources outside your secure environment. Create awareness with your employees that will help them identify red flags and potential cyber threats. Along with your other defenses, they are one of your most important security assets.”

The Promo Angle: Mike Pfeiffer, Vice President of Information Technology at American Solutions for Business, says, since 2019, the Minnesota-based distributor has required its vendor partners to participate in an annual commitment to a Cyber Safe Pledge, which outlines security best practices. This year, Pfeiffer has developed an education program called the Cyber Five, focusing on the five highest priorities for all businesses and their employees.

“Current world events underscore the importance of urgent action in these areas,” Pfeiffer says. “Phishing messages and cyberattacks have been rising exponentially over the last several months. We welcome the White House statement that encourages all businesses act now to protect against potential cyberattacks. Their outline includes all of the Cyber Five topics with the addition of proactively reaching out to make contact with your local FBI office in advance of any attack.”