The Biden administration has warned repeatedly about the potential for Russia to engage in malicious cyber activity against the United States in response to the economic sanctions imposed, and recently the White House said there is “evolving intelligence that Russia may be exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”
“If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defenses immediately by implementing the best practices we have developed together over the last year,” President Joe Biden said in remarks March 21, according to a transcript on the White House website. “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. 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.”
Biden added that this is “a critical moment to accelerate our work to improve domestic cybersecurity and bolster our national resilience,” and that the administration is reiterating those warnings “based on evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”
The White House published a fact sheet with a list of steps it urges companies to execute “with urgency.”
The recommendations include mandating the use of multi-factor authentication on systems, deploying modern security tools on computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats, checking with cybersecurity professionals to make sure that systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities, and changing passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors.
In addition, the White House recommends backing up any vital data and ensuring that offline backups are beyond the reach of malicious actors, running exercises and emergency drills, and encrypting data so it cannot be accessed even if it is stolen.
At a press briefing following the announcement, press secretary Jenn Psaki said that last week, federal agencies convened more than 100 companies to share new cybersecurity threat information in light of this evolving threat-related intelligence. During those meetings, the White House shared resources and tools to help companies harden their security — “like advisories sourced from sensitive threat intelligence and hands-on support from local FBI field offices and sister regional offices, including their Shields Up program,” per Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor.
During Psaki’s press briefing, Neuberger continued on to say that: “What we’re seeing now is an evolving threat intelligence to conduct potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. And that raises up a point because we’re concerned about potential disruption of critical services.”
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