Mar 24, 2022 - Podcasts

Cyberattacks and how to protect yourself

This week, a hacking group admitted to a January attack on Okta, a service used by thousands of companies to provide login security. As of now, little is known about what information this group took and from how many people. But the news comes as President Biden reiterated his warnings of a potential Russian cyberattack.

  • Plus, Poland’s new role in Europe
  • And, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dies at 84.

Guests: Axios' Sarah Mucha and Scott Rosenberg.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, March 24th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: cyber attacks – and how to protect yourself. Plus, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dies at 84.

But first, Poland’s new role in Europe…is today’s one big thing.

NIALA: The U.S. has concluded that Russia's military has committed war crimes in Ukraine. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that in a statement yesterday. President Biden is in Europe trying to bolster a western Alliance as Russia's war in Ukraine rages on. He's expected to announce new sanctions against Russia and more humanitarian aid for Ukraine on this trip. And he'll also meet with Poland's president this week, as the country is now playing a critical role in the Ukraine-Russia crisis. Here to help us understand where Poland stands in Europe today is Axios’ political reporter Sarah Mucha. Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MUCHA: Hi, thanks for having me.

NIALA: Sarah, can you share with us a little bit more about what Poland's role is in this crisis?

SARAH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there have been 10 million refugees leaving Ukraine and more than 3 million of those people are already in Poland. Of course, that number, as we know, keeps on growing. My family actually is in Poland. We have a lot of family friends there who are taking in refugees. The ministry at this point that's housing them it's scrambling to provide for the refugees needs or looking for grocery vouchers, cell phones sim cards, childcare, health and psychological care. They're even looking for jobs for these refugees. And we know that about 70,000 Ukrainian children are attending schools in Poland. So it's definitely been thrust upon the world stage at this time.

NIALA: What was Poland's place in Europe, just prior to this conflict?

SARAH: It's an interesting spot, right? Poland has sort of been straddling the line between Eastern and Western Europe for a long time, particularly after communism fell in 1989. Unfortunately, it's seen a bit of a significant, uh, democratic backsliding toward a more populous type of government in recent years that many people are saying is starting to look like what they experienced during communism, including my parents who left Poland when it was a communist country. And they remember the lines that they had to stand in for food. They remember sort of that, secretiveness around your neighbors, trying not to say things to other people for fear that you might be reported on by the government. And that's somewhat happened, in recent years in Poland, you know, think installing party heads to run the national media and an overhaul of its court system that many people are saying seems very similar to communist times.

NIALA: So what are you watching for with Joe Biden meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda. Well, we're definitely going to have to see the types of things that they're looking to agree on. Um, definitely their military strategy. And then also how they're going to be handling the refugees they're definitely going to be seeking some kind of assistance from their allied neighbors.

NIALA: Sarah, as we think about Poland and its role right now, what do you think is the most important thing for people to know about?

SARAH: As the country has seen some backsliding and as the president is still willing to meet with President Duda. That's because President Duda has taken somewhat more of a moderate approach to some of his politics, especially in recent months. And speculation can point to the fact that he's trying to make good with President Biden who came out pretty aggressively criticizing his policies about the judiciary and journalists rights in Poland. Former ambassador to Poland from the U.S. Stephen Mull told me, he said, remember, there's a house on fire, right next door to Poland. And obviously, the most important focus in the relationship is that crisis in Ukraine. So that doesn't mean the other concerns have gone away. It just means that right now, it's sort of a triage moment where we need to focus on how they're going to handle the war in Ukraine.

NIALA: Axios’ political reporter, Sarah Mucha. Thank you, Sarah.

SARAH: Thank you so much.

We’re back after the break with a remembrance of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Madeleine Albright – the first woman to serve as Secretary of State of the United States – has died.

While” Madame Secretary” was the formal greeting afforded to Albright when she held the position in the Clinton Administration from 1997 to 2001 – she earned a nickname years earlier when serving as Ambassador to the United Nations… “Madam Cojones”– for her guts and iron will.

Albright, was born Marie Jana JAN-ah Korbelova (KOR-buh-loh-va) in 1937 in Prague. When she was 11 she immigrated with her family to the US, she said to find freedom and flee communism. Never did she imagine she would reach the pinnacle she did… as she told a senate committee back in 1997:


I could say to you that it had always been my ambition to be the secretary of state of the united states, but that’s not true. Frankly i did not think it was possible.

But *possible* it was. Albright broke the glass ceiling in government – and her accomplishments were many: notably her push for NATO expansion to the East of Europe and her work to end the war in the Balkans- in particular to stop further genocide.

She also became a role model for women the world over.


Just remember: there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other

That was back in 2016. She was never one to mince words.

Last month, Albright weighed in on the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, warning that to do so would quote “ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance.”

Madeleine Albright was mom to 3 daughters, she was a grandmother, she was and a champion for democracy around the world. She died Wednesday of cancer at the age of 84.


We will continue to promote an advocate democracy because we know that democracy is a parent to peace

This week, a hacking group admitted to a January attack on Okta (AWK-ta), a service used by thousands of companies to provide login security.

As of now, little is known about what information this group took - and from how many people but, the news comes as President Biden reiterated his warnings of a potential Russian cyberattack.

So far, there’s no real evidence connecting the Okta (AWK-ta) attack to Russia, it brings up more questions about our cyber vulnerability.

Which is why Axios managing editor for technology Scott Rosenberg is here with us. Scott, what was this hack?

SCOTT ROSENBERG: So Okta does sign-in for lots and lots of companies, and it has third-party customer support companies that it works with and somehow this hacking group got access to this third-party support engineer’s system. And with that access, it may have had the ability to reset passwords and gain access to some other kinds of data.

NIALA: If you're not someone who uses Okta - I'd never heard of it before this attack - Why should we be concerned about this?

SCOTT: The way this game works is, if someone gains access to one system, it can be used to leap-frog your way into many other systems. So anytime a major provider like this is at all affected, it's very hard to know how far the ripples will extend.

NIALA: What should we be doing right now for people who are especially worried about this?

SCOTT: The two most important things you can do have been the same forever: One is to make sure that any account that you care about that has a connection to your money or to your information, you should use two-factor authentication, which is the thing where you tell Google, you tell your bank, that you want them to check your phone first before you log in. It's a pain. It's less convenient, but it does leave you much safer. And the other thing to do is never click on a link in your email. If you get an email that seems to be from your bank or your cell phone provider, don't click on it, go to the website, log in yourself and then find out what's going on.

NIALA: Axios managing editor for technology, Scott Rosenberg, joining us from California. Thanks, Scott.

SCOTT: Thank you

Before we go today – we want to wish a very happy 1st birthday to Axios Latino. The twice-weekly newsletter has brought us tons of great stories you’ve heard on the pod. If you don’t already subscribe, we’ll put a link in our show notes for you.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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