- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2022

The White House on Monday echoed its warnings that Russia could launch a cyberattack on American companies and infrastructure in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

In a statement, Mr. Biden said the warning is based on “evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”

“My Administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure,” he said.

It did not elaborate on what exactly the intelligence revealed or what the U.S response might be.

Mr. Biden also urged U.S. companies to accelerate efforts to protect themselves against the threat of a cyberattack, adding the federal government is willing to help them fend off a move by Russia.

White House deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger said Russia is “exploring options for potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure” in the U.S. However, she acknowledged there “is no certainty” there will be a cyber incident.

“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,” Ms. Neuberger said during a White House press briefing.

The White House called on companies to develop multiple steps of authentication, encrypt sensitive data, shore up vulnerabilities and make contingency plans.

The administration last month warned of potential cyberattacks targeting the U.S. in the run-up to Russia‘s Feb. 24, attack on Ukraine. But the attacks never materialized, surprising administration officials and cybersecurity experts.

At the time, Ms. Neuberger said Russia was behind widespread cyberattacks on Ukraine banks and military websites, which was a prelude to the military invasion of the country.

Several cyberattacks carried out against U.S. companies and political groups have been tied to Russian agents or cybercriminals based in the country.

Last year’s shutdown of the Colonial oil pipeline, attack on JBS Foods, a meat processor, and an attack on the operator of ferries to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, have all been linked to hackers based in Russia.

The U.S. has also accused Russian government hackers of stealing the emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta during the 2016 presidential election.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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