A bipartisan group of Senators are voicing concern about the potential of widespread Russian cyber-attacks in the United States as retribution for the crippling sanctions America is imposing on Russia.
In a letter sent to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Sunday evening, 22 Senators raise questions about America’s readiness for Russian cyber and disinformation threats.
Some background: Russian government-linked hackers have a long track record of infiltrating US government agencies and probing US critical infrastructure.
A 2020 cyber-espionage campaign the Biden administration blamed on Russia’s SVR intelligence agencies exploited SolarWinds software to breach several government agencies. Russian-speaking ransomware groups have also disrupted US critical infrastructure, most notably last year in the days-long shutdown of Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel transporter for the East Coast.
“Given Russia’s history of disruptive cyber and disinformation activities, we are concerned that the United States may be targeted in retaliation for actions taken to impose costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine,” write the Senators, led by Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen and South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds.
They are requesting a briefing from Mayorkas on what the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is doing to proactively defend against Russian state-sponsored threats and what particular sectors might be targeted. The senators also want to know what the strategy is if critical infrastructure is in fact breached.
For months, CISA, the White House and agencies like the Treasury Department have held briefings with key sectors like banking and energy on Russian cyber capabilities and the possibility for retaliation in cyberspace.
CISA’s website says there are no specific or credible cyber threats to the US at this time.
In February, President Biden designated DHS as the lead federal agency to coordinate domestic preparedness and response efforts related to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.