The Biden administration explicitly must tell Russia about the consequences it would face for a cyberattack on critical targets such as the U.S. power grid, some intelligence leaders said.
"While I think the red lines have been made clear for several years now — and underscored most recently in the president’s signal to President [Vladimir] Putin that targeting of infrastructure remains a clear red line for the U.S. — what has been less clear has been the U.S. articulation of the specific consequences for crossing those red lines," Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., told Politico via a statement.
Ukraine last week was hit by a suspected Russian cyberattack that splashed a warning across government websites to "be afraid and expect the worst," while Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops on its neighbor's frontier, released pictures of more of its forces on the move.
The Biden administration has threatened to respond with sanctions that would severely hurt the Russian economy — something that has increased concern about potential cyberattacks on the U.S.
Intelligence leaders have said that sanctions, indicting hackers, and ejecting Moscow’s diplomats over past attacks have failed to discourage Russian cyberespionage operations or criminal ransomware attacks, Politico reported.
Biden, at a meeting in Geneva last year, gave Putin a list of 16 U.S. "critical" infrastructure sectors that should be off limits to cyberattacks. The list included energy sites, dams, food, hospitals, financial services, communications, and government facilities.
"I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability, and he knows it," Biden told reporters afterward, Politico reported.
"He knows I will take action."
The cyberattack on Ukraine, though, indicated that Putin could be testing Biden’s resolve.
"Should Russia — or the criminal hackers that Putin allows to freely operate within his borders — threaten American hospitals, utilities, or other critical infrastructure, the U.S. must consider using all instruments of state power in response to such blatant aggression," Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a statement, Politico reported.
A report late last week from the Government Accountability Office alleged that Russia breached the network management software company SolarWinds in 2020. It also asserted that the Chinese government likely exploited a vulnerability in the Microsoft Exchange Server a year later.
It was reported in October that State Department responded to international cyberthreats — such as ransomware, intellectual property theft by Chinese citizens, and Russian election interference — by restructuring to include the creation of two new positions.
Positions for a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy, to be led by an unnamed Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large, and a separate special envoy for critical and emerging technology were created, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Reuters contributed to this story.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.