RICHMOND, Va. — (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday urged U.S. businesses to make sure their digital doors are securely locked due to “evolving intelligence” that Russia is planning to launch cyberattacks on critical infrastructure targets as the war in Ukraine continues.
Addressing company CEOs at their quarterly meeting, Biden told business leaders they had a “patriotic obligation” to harden their systems against such attacks. He said federal help was available, if they wanted it, but the decision was theirs alone.
Biden said the administration has issued “new warnings that, based on evolving intelligence, Russia may be planning a cyberattack against us.” … The scale of Russia’s cyber capability is quite substantial, and it’s coming.”
The president said the federal government is “doing its part” to prepare for an attack and warned private sector CEOs that it is also in the national interest for them to do the same.
“I would respectfully say that it is a patriotic obligation for you to invest as much as you can” in technology to counter cyberattacks, Biden told members of the Business Roundtable. “We are ready to help you, as I said, with all the tools and expertise that we have, if you are ready to do so. But it is your decision as to what action you will take and your responsibility to take it, not ours.
Biden’s top cybersecurity aide, Anne Neuberger, expressed frustration during a White House press briefing earlier Monday that some critical infrastructure entities ignored alerts from federal agencies to address known issues. software that could be exploited by Russian hackers.
“Despite these repeated warnings, we continue to see adversaries compromising systems that use known vulnerabilities for which patches exist,” said Neuberger, who is the president’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies. “It makes it much easier for attackers than it should be.”
The federal government warned American companies of the threats posed by Russian hackers long before the country invaded Ukraine last month. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has launched a “Shields Up” campaign aimed at helping companies strengthen their defenses and has urged companies to safeguard their data, enable multi-factor authentication and take other measures to improve cyber hygiene.
Neuberger said there was no information to suggest a specific Russian cyberattack on US targets, but she added that there had been an increase in “preparatory activities”, such as scanning websites and searching for vulnerabilities, which is common among nation-state hackers.
In a written statement earlier Monday, Biden said Russia may launch a cyberattack on US targets in retaliation for “the unprecedented economic costs we have imposed” on Russia through sanctions.
“It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” Biden said.
The United States and its allies have implemented a series of sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy, and Biden recently announced that the United States was sending more anti-aircraft, anti-armour and drone weapons to help Ukraine.
John Hultquist, vice president of intelligence analysis at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said cyberattacks gave Russia the ability to retaliate.
“Cyberattacks are a way for them to exact costs without crossing a major red line,” he said.
Russia is considered a hacking power, but its offensive cyberattacks since invading Ukraine have been reduced from what some feared. Russia has carried out major cyberattacks against Ukraine in recent years, including the devastating NotPetya attack in 2017 which spread on a large scale and caused more than $10 billion in damage worldwide.
Neuberger said Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine were continuing, although she did not provide details. She said the Biden administration has made it clear there will be consequences if Russia engages with the United States in cyberspace.
“We are not looking for a conflict with Russia. If Russia launches a cyberattack on the United States, we will respond,” she said.
The Russian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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