‘Russia is going to get pretty beat up’ by hacker collectives: Phosphorus Cybersecurity CEO

Phosphorus Cybersecurity CEO Chris Rouland joins Yahoo Finance Live to talk about the cybersecurity measures U.S. banks should take following additional sanctions on Russia, the threat of hackers on the automotive industry, and hacker groups.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Cybersecurity stocks like Crowdstrike and Palo Alto Networks have been a bright spot, as the war in Ukraine prompts fears of cyber attacks. In fact, US banks are now preparing for retaliatory cyber attacks after Western nations slapped fresh sanctions on Russia, including blocking some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.

I want to welcome in Chris Rouland-- he is CEO of Phosphorus Cybersecurity-- for more on this. So Chris, just how well-prepared are US banks to protect themselves against these kinds of cyber attacks? And should Americans be worried about their money and their personal information being compromised here?

CHRIS ROULAND: Well, let's start backwards. I think all of our personal information is already compromised. So you don't need to worry about that anymore. It's already out there. US banks have been investing for decades in cybersecurity and resilience of their systems, especially when dealing with the problem of computer fraud and theft. What we haven't really prepared for is destructive malware that we've seen deployed against Ukraine.

So historically, when US companies have been hacked, the adversaries leaves those computers alive so they can steal from them. In the case of cyberwar, what we're seeing now is the computers are hacked and then destroyed.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Well, let me ask about what they can do to sort of really protect themselves because we see time and time again, these attacks have been successful in lots of different industries. So what is different today, I guess, than even six months ago in the way they're protecting themselves?

CHRIS ROULAND: Well, I don't know what's changed in the last six months. Certainly, there's been a lot of work over the last week or two in anticipation of increased cyber attacks. But at this point today, it's kind of too late to do anything. You're going to have to deal with your situation. And I think a lot of the big financial institutions have made big investments and protect themselves. And they're the biggest customers of the stocks that you mentioned that are seeing lifts over being at cyber war.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, today, we saw that Toyota had to suspend factory operations in Japan. One of their suppliers, I guess, who supplies them with some plastic parts and electronic components was hacked. No word on who did this. Nobody's taking responsibility just yet. But the timing is interesting, right, because Japan just joined Western allies in sanctioning Russia. What are your thoughts on all of this? And are we going to see more of this happening within the auto industry?

CHRIS ROULAND: Well, I mean, it was timely. And for example, the Russians offered $2 million to a Tesla employee to bring a USB drive in to work. So I think they are going to be able to compromise the auto industry if they can have resources like that. Toyota is probably the only one who knows if it's Russians or not. Sunday, we saw British Airways systems go down, and they said that was actually just an IT problem. So probably the next couple of weeks, any time someone gets hacked, we're just going to automatically blame the Russians. That may be true, it may not be true.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, how much of a role do these third party hacker groups play in all of this, even if, say, Russia holds off on a full scale cyber attack against the US? What does that mean for those third party hackers?

CHRIS ROULAND: Well, I think the hackers-- hackers generally are not bullies. And Putin's being a bully right now. And so you pretty much have every other hacker on the planet not happy with Russia right now. And there are a lot more hackers outside of Russia than there are inside Russia. So I think Russia is going to get pretty beat up by, if you'd want to call them NGOs or other hacker collectives, like Anonymous.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And what should individuals be doing to protect themselves at this point? I mean, you said, like, a minute ago, that a lot of these large companies, they either have had their security in place now, or at least, for this go around, it's too late.

CHRIS ROULAND: Yeah, I mean, I think for individuals, I would just keep an eye on what's going on. And, you know, I don't think it makes sense to recommend things like we did after the Lehman collapse, like laddering bank accounts and things like that. We're a bit close to it now. I mean, I'd fill up my cars with gas this morning.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, we're going to leave it there. Chris Rouland, CEO of Phosphorus Cybersecurity, thank you.