The White House has suggested that Russia could be in the process of cooking up a significant cyberattack against critical infrastructure in the US.
On Monday, the Biden-Harris Administration released a statement saying there was “evolving intelligence” that Russia may be exploring options for potential cyberattacks against the US.
In light of this, they have advised companies to take extra cybersecurity steps, including multi-factor authentication, backing up their data, data encryption, consulting with cybersecurity experts, and educating employees about common tactics used by attackers.
"The majority of our critical infrastructure... is owned and operated by the private sector. And those owners and operators have the ability and the responsibility to harden the systems and networks we all rely on," Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, said at a media briefing on Monday.
The White House says there’s no certain evidence that a cyberattack will occur, but it has picked up numerous hints that something is brewing.
“There is no evidence of any specific cyberattack that we’re anticipating for. There is 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,” added Neuberger.
One of these potential threats may be the US energy system. Both CNN and POLITICO have seen a warning by the FBI that indicates that the networks of five US energy companies and 18 other US defense, financial services, and IT firms have been scanned by hackers looking for potential vulnerabilities.
"This scanning activity has increased since the start of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, leading to a greater possibility of future intrusions," the FBI memo reportedly states.
Over in Ukraine and Russia, cyberattacks have already ramped up on both sides of the border. Research by cybersecurity firm Central Point found that cyberattacks against Ukraine’s government and military sector increased by a striking 196 percent in the first three days of combat. Meanwhile, hacks against private Russian organizations increased by 4 percent while attacks against Ukrainian organizations were up just 0.20 percent.
Most attacks on behalf of both Ukraine and Russia appear to employ two well-known methods. Firstly, hackers are attempting to access sensitive or private information with the aim of leaking the data to disrupt normal operations. Secondly, many are conducting DDoS attacks, involving overwhelming and disrupting a service or network by flooding it with traffic from multiple sources.
It's important to note the US is still uncertain how, when, or if a Russian cyberattack might strike, but it's clear US authorities feel the need to prepare for the possibility before it's too late.
“I have previously warned about the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners,” said President Biden on Monday.
“It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” he added.