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Russian cyberattacks could create a 'serious pain point' in U.S. economy, Logically AI VP says

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Logically AI VP of Global Operations Brian Murphy joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how Russia-backed hackers could launch cyberattacks in the U.S. to counter sanctions.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: There are cyber attacks from Russia right now. It's very elevated, experts say. Let's bring one of those experts to help us understand what we might be next in the cyber warfare front. Brian Murphy is the vice president of global operations for Logically AI. He's also the former acting Undersecretary of Intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security. Good to see you here. Brian, thanks for taking the time. What-- if Russia is to launch cyber warfare against the US, what US assets might it start with?

BRIAN MURPHY: Well, so it won't be the first time, so we need to put this in perspective. The Russians really come at the US in a couple of different ways. The first way is what actors will be the delivery of any kind of attack that they put together. And so you have really two sets-- the Russian military, the SVR, GRU, and maybe the FSB, or their proxy groups that is more likely what they'll use, which are organized crime traditionally or actors in third countries.

What they'll go after is infrastructure, and that's in cyber infrastructure. They've done this before. So it's hard to predict exactly where they'll go, but if the past is any predictor of their future, and it may be in this case, they'll look to hit things like [INAUDIBLE] systems or industrial control for, let's say water purification plants. They may hit some electrical grids. They've done that before to try to send a signal to the United States that they will use all aspects in terms of spectrum of warfare, the hybrid warfare, to counter US sanctions.

BRIAN SOZZI: It's pretty alarming, Brian. Are big companies prepared for these types of cyber attacks right now?

BRIAN MURPHY: That's a great question. I think it just depends, right, on the company. So unfortunately, a lot of companies don't take, even in today's world, their cyber hygiene to the level that it needs to be at until quite frankly it's too late. And so ransomware is a favorite of the Russians, particularly Russian government, as a way to lock up some of these big businesses. We saw that with the Colonial Pipeline. And those are the industrial controls that I think that they will continue to go after.

So are they prepared? It really depends on the business. I mean, just generally, I think we've gotten a lot better as a country, but unfortunately, a long way to go. It is a cost center for these big companies, but usually, the pain they feel on the back side of it if they have not prepared themselves effectively is far worse.

JULIE HYMAN: Brian, I'm also curious about our government's capabilities to counter attack in Russia. I mean, it's sort of become conventional wisdom that Russia and China are the two most effective international actors in terms of cyber attacks. But can we counterpunch? And how much of a deterrent could that potentially be to Russia?

BRIAN MURPHY: Well, we can definitely-- we have the capabilities, of course, to counterpunch. And I don't know if it will be much of a deterrence to the Russians. One, we have not fought fire with fire, if you would. They'll attack us at a certain level, and we have chosen not for political reasons to respond in kind. And that, depending on how you look at it, may or may not be the right position to take. But the cyber war can quickly lead to real war.

And obviously, we want to try to do everything we can to avoid that. But at the same time, yes, we have those capabilities. When we use them, how we use them, and if we use them, there's going to be a lot of calculations into that because there is now a hot war in Ukraine. And our NATO allies are just on the other side. So all of these things are going to be difficult to make determinations from for the US government because there's so many factors in there as to do we use the tools, how do we respond, and what does it look like.

JULIE HYMAN: For US investors-- and we're showing, by the way, cybersecurity stocks, which have been benefiting, as there is this assumption that their services will be needed. But I'm also curious how investors should be viewing the risk of potential attacks to US businesses, to infrastructure. You know, how severe can we expect them to be potentially? And could they affect business?

BRIAN MURPHY: Well, invariably, they will affect business. Again, if you just look at the Colonial Pipeline as just a recent example, when the Russians do something-- and I think they will-- it won't look like it did last time, meaning that it won't necessarily be, let's say, a major gas pipeline in the US. It'll be something different, but the same type of model will be used. And it's going to have a serious pain point in a sector of the US economy. And we just don't know what that will be right now, obviously. But when it comes, it will have an impact in a sector of our economy, sure.

BRIAN SOZZI: Really appreciate this insight here. Brian Murphy, vice president of global operations for Logically AI, thanks so much.