As concern rises that Russia may turn to cyberwarfare to lash out against countries imposing economic sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine, New Mexico’s governor has appointed a cybersecurity senior advisor.
On Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced that Annie Winterfield Manriquez had been named senior advisor for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure. Her role is described as working with government agencies and the private sector to boost awareness of cyber attacks and set standards and practices for guarding against them and reporting incidents.
The governor said the Biden Administration is recommending that states prepare for potential cyber attacks targeting public agencies, financial targets or even critical infrastructure.
Manriquez has worked with the nonprofit MITRE Corporation, where she led a department that assisted White House agencies in improving cyber systems. She is also a former National Security Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and has worked for the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration.
President Joe Biden’s warnings about potential state-sponsored cyberattacks from Russia in particular began with the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which triggered a series of crippling economic sanctions among the U.S. and allied members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
More: Americans at high risk of Russian cyberattacks: What you should do right now
On Tuesday, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency jointly called on all organizations to institute multifactor authentication protocols, timed lockouts and other security features to guard against malicious cyber activity.
Infrastructure systems that could be vulnerable to attack via the internet include energy, water, transportation as well as essential financial and healthcare services. An example is the December 2015 breach of Ukraine’s power grid by hackers that managed to shut down power for several hours for more than 200,000 people.
In January, cyberattacks temporarily closed the Albuquerque Public Schools while a ransomware attack targeted Bernalillo County offices, disrupting services and taking down public web pages across the government. The latter attack also shut down security cameras at the Metropolitan Detention Center, forcing the facility into lockdown.
The state’s second-largest school district, the Las Cruces Public Schools, sustained a devastating ransomware attack in 2019, as did the neighboring Gadsden Independent School District in 2019 and 2020.
New Mexico State University’s foundation has been targeted recently as well.
“A robust cybersecurity framework has never been more important, and we are already seeing more sophisticated cyberattacks being carried out in New Mexico and the rest of the country,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.