CISA resource looks to help high-risk groups thwart cyberattacks

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Civil society organizations, community groups and others often lack budgets and resources needed to defend against hackers.

The DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released guidance on Tuesday to assist  activists, journalists, human rights workers, academics and others affiliated with civil society groups that may face cyberthreats.

“Many of these communities operate on lean budgets and cannot significantly invest in cybersecurity. As a result, they are a uniquely attractive target for cyber threat actors that leverage cyber intrusions to undermine the fundamental values and interests common to free societies,” the site says.

The site aggregates free-to-use tools, including communities, helplines, guides and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers, or ISACs. It also includes Project Upskill, which lists guides for non-technical civil society staff aimed at helping them improve their cyber posture.

CISA collaborated with civil society groups, governments and private sector companies to develop the resource, which includes mention of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, a public-private sector information-sharing initiative.

Underprivileged communities, especially communities of color, often feel the impact of cyberattacks more than other entities, like corporations. Across the world, spyware vendors have targeted civil society victims, and September 2020 private sector analysis from Microsoft listed NGOs as a top target of hackers linked to nation-states.

Spyware — software programs surreptitiously planted on victims’ devices to surveil their movements and collect private communications — has been deployed extensively by governments against journalists, politicians and dissidents around the globe. The State Department is working to add more allied nations to a global spyware deterrence pact later this year, Nextgov/FCW first reported.

CISA in February unveiled a related guidance page for election workers and officials to help them prepare for possible presidential election disturbances this November.