White House warns intelligence points to Russian cyberattacks

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White House warns intelligence points to Russian cyberattacks

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 penalize the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” said a statement attributed to President Biden. “Today, my Administration is reiterating those 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.

The statements were released ahead of a White House press briefing with cybersecurity official Anne Neuberger, who previously warned of Russian cyberattacks at a Feb. 18 briefing.

“Russia likes to move in the shadows and accounts on a long process of attribution so it can continue with malicious behavior against Ukraine in cyberspace, including pre-positioning for potential invasion,” Neuberger said at the time.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger warned about potential Russian cyberattacks at a February briefing.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger warned about potential Russian cyberattacks at a February briefing.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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

The US government said last year 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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