CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz told CNBC on Thursday he’s been speaking with U.S. bank executives, and they’re worried about potentially being the target of Russian cyberattacks.
Kurtz’s comments on “Mad Money” came after Russia invaded Ukraine, intensifying geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West. The U.S. and European nations on Thursday issued further sanctions against Russia, including multiple financial institutions in the country.
“I’ve talked to a lot of banks recently, a lot of senior executives, and they’re concerned,” said Kurtz, noting his cloud-focused cybersecurity firm works with 14 of the 20 largest U.S. banks.
“They’re very concerned about what might happen here, and they should be,” Kurtz said, due to the widespread consequences that so-called wiper viruses can have. They are “designed to basically wipe a system. When we think about cyber, it has no boundaries for collateral damage.”
U.S. officials believe Russian agents were behind multiple cyberattacks targeting Ukrainian government websites this month, the most recent of which occurred Wednesday. Some Ukrainian banks were also affected.
Washington has accused Russians of unleashing a number of cyberattacks in recent years, such as the SolarWinds hack in 2020 that hit a number of U.S. government agencies, including the State Department.
Both the U.S. and Russia have “great cyber capabilities,” according to Kurtz, and he told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that governments and corporations “have to be ready” because cyber will play a critical part in any modern war.
“Unfortunately, 85% of the infrastructure is owned by private companies, and when we think about that critical infrastructure, it isn’t always up to the level we would like from a cybersecurity perspective. We’ve seen that with some of the pipelines,” he said, possibly referring to last year’s Colonial Pipeline attack.
Asked specifically how U.S. banks have handled cybersecurity, Kurtz offered a favorable review.
“The banks, from a sector perspective, have done a great job. There’s a lot of regulation around what they do,” he said. “Thankfully, they have the money to actually put in a mature cybersecurity technology,” including his own company’s services.
It’s unclear what will happen next on the cyberattack front. However, Kurtz said the real concern has to be about a back-and-forth escalation.
“Part of the challenge in cyber is there really aren’t norms. I think a lot of the norms have been violated here in conventional warfare,” he said, “but there are no norms in cyber, so what happens with this escalation is really going to be interesting.”
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