Threat Intelligence, Threat Management

White House: Intelligence shows Russia is exploring potential cyberattacks against US

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on February 17, 2021. As policymakers dissect options to combat ransomware, Neuberger could be among the primary voices at the White House. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden warned Monday, based on "evolving intelligence," that Russia was "exploring" potential cyberattacks on the U.S.

"I have previously warned about the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners. It’s part of Russia’s playbook. Today, my Administration is reiterating those warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks," he said in a statement.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI issued its first alert about the potential for Russian aggression targeting America amid President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine the week troops began active hostilities. The fear was that NATO or U.S. involvement in the conflict, including by sanctions, may provoke Russia.

"To be clear, there is no certainty there will be a cyber incident on critical infrastructure," said  Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger at a White House press briefing.

Neuberger described the intelligence as "fragmentary" information regarding preparatory work for a cyberattack and said that the government alerted potentially impacted sectors in classified briefings last week.

She scolded enterprises for not taking remedial steps despite previous warnings of potential Russian attempts.

"Notwithstanding these repeated warnings, we continue to see adversaries compromising systems that use known vulnerabilities for which there are patches. This is deeply troubling," she said.

The first alert related to Russia this year came Jan. 11 as a joint alert from the FBI, CISA and the National Security Agency, warning all critical infrastructure entities of ongoing targeted cyberattacks from Russian state-sponsored cyber operations. That alert did not explicitly mention Ukraine.

Earlier this month CISA and FBI detailed how Russian state-sponsored actors gained access to a non-governmental organization’s network as a warning to others. Last week, they issued a new joint advisory warning American and allied satellite owners and operators that they “are aware of possible threats to U.S. and international satellite communication networks." The satellite warning did not attribute any attacks to any country but came soon after an apparent cyberattack against Viasat infrastructure during the invasion.

Joe Uchill

Joe is a senior reporter at SC Weekly, focused on policy issues. He previously covered cybersecurity for Axios, The Hill and the Christian Science Monitor’s short-lived Passcode website.

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