White House warns intelligence points to Russian cyberattacks | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack


The White House warned companies to tighten their cyberdefenses Monday — citing “evolving intelligence” that Russia may be readying attacks as payback for harsh US sanctions to punish the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” said a statement attributed to President Biden. “Today, my Administration is reiterating [cyber] warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”

The Biden administration previously warned of possible cyberattacks, but experts were surprised when they failed to materialize as Russian troops began pouring across Ukraine’s borders on Feb. 24.

A White House fact sheet urged companies to implement multifactor authentication and encryption of sensitive data, as well as to store backup data, update software to patch vulnerabilities, and prepare emergency plans.

White House cybersecurity official Anne Neuberger told reporters at a briefing Monday that hundreds of companies recently received classified briefings alerting them to apparent Russian preparations for cyberattacks. She did not identify the companies or industries impacted.

“There is no evidence of any specific cyberattack that we’re anticipating,” she said. “There was some preparatory activity that we’re seeing and that is what we shared in a classified context with companies who we thought might be affected.”

Deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology Anne Neuberger warned about potential Russian cyberattacks at a February briefing.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Neuberger clarified that Russian “preparatory activity could mean scanning websites, it could be hunting for vulnerabilities.”

“We continue to see known vulnerabilities for which we have patches available used by even sophisticated cyber actors to compromise American companies,” she said. “And that makes it far easier for attackers and it needs to be.”

The Brooklyn native likened hacks to more traditional types of crime.

“I joke — I grew up in New York. You had a lock and an alarm system,” Neuberger said. “The houses that didn’t or left the door open? Clearly they’re making it easier than they should have. Right? No comment about New York.”

Neuberger also reiterated a threat to retaliate if Russia does hack US companies.

“I think the president was very clear: We’re not looking for a conflict with Russia. If Russia initiates a cyberattack against the United States, we will respond,” she said.

Prior cyberattacks by suspected Russian agents or cybercriminals upended US politics and even everyday life.

The US government said that hackers based in Russia shut down the Colonial Pipeline in a ransomware attack, causing gas stations to run dry along the East Coast in May 2021.

Major meat processor JBS Foods also was attacked by suspected Russian hackers last year — as was the operator of ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Russian government hackers allegedly breached the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta during the 2016 presidential race.



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