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President Biden on Monday warned that there is “evolving intelligence” to suggest that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks against the United States, amid its multi-front war against Ukraine, and urged the private sector to “immediately” harden “cyber defenses.”
In a statement Monday, the president said this is “a critical moment to accelerate our work to improve domestic cybersecurity and bolster our national resilience.”
The Biden administration has been warning about the potential for “malicious cyber activity” against the United States by the Russian government—which Biden said could be 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,” Biden said Monday.
The Biden administration has been working to “strengthen” US national cyber defenses, and has mandated “extensive cybersecurity measures for the Federal Government and those critical infrastructure sectors where we have authority to do so.”
The president on Monday also stressed that the administration has created “public-private partnerships and initiatives to enhance cybersecurity across all our critical infrastructure.”
“Congress has partnered with us on these efforts — we appreciate that Members of Congress worked across the aisle to require companies to report cyber incidents to the United States Government,” Biden said.
“My Administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure,” the president said Monday, but said the “Federal Government can’t defend against this threat alone.”
“Most of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and critical infrastructure owners and operators must accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors,” Biden said. ” The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been actively working with organizations across critical infrastructure to rapidly share information and mitigation guidance to help protect their systems and networks.”
The president urged private sector partners to “harden your cyber defenses immediately by implementing the best practices we have developed together over the last year.”
“You have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of the critical services and technologies on which Americans rely,” Biden said. “We need everyone to do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time — your vigilance and urgency today can prevent or mitigate attacks tomorrow.”
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. organizations at all levels that they could face cyber threats stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The Biden administration has worked to strengthen cyber defenses after a string of ransomware attacks last summer, with foreign malign actors targeting pieces of U.S. critical infrastructure.
In June 2021, a ransomware assault shut down the U.S.-based meat plants of the world’s largest meatpacker, Brazil-based JBS. The White House said the hack was likely carried out by a criminal group based in Russia.
The attack on JBS came just weeks after the largest U.S. fuel pipeline, the East Coast’s Colonial Pipeline, was targeted by a criminal group originating in Russia.
Biden, during his summit in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June 2021, raised the issue of ransomware. Biden, at the time, said he told Putin that “certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack.” Biden said he gave a list of “16 specific entities defined as critical infrastructure,” saying it ranged from energy to water systems.
Putin, though, during his press conference after the meeting, denied that Russia was responsible for cyberattacks and instead claimed that most cyberattacks in the world were carried out from the U.S.
Biden in July signed a national security memorandum directing his administration to develop cybersecurity performance goals for critical infrastructure in the U.S. – entities like electricity utility companies, chemical plants and nuclear reactors.
The memo also formally established Biden’s Cyber Security Initiative, a voluntary collaborative effort between the federal government and critical infrastructure entities to facilitate the deployment of technology and systems that provide threat visibility indicators and detections.