What American companies need to know about potential cyberattacks from Russia

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By , KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger shared a warning: “Lock your digital doors. Make it harder for attackers. Make them do more work.”

The cautionary guidance comes from Biden administration intelligence officials who believe Russia may be gearing up for a cyberattack on American infrastructure in retaliation against economic sanctions.

President Joe Biden withheld specifics about the threats, but potential targets include the U.S. financial sector, electric grids, water treatment plants and hospitals.

He emphasized Russia’s capacity for cyberattacks is “fairly consequential,” and state actors have been laying the groundwork for an attack by searching for vulnerabilities in American networks.

Analyst Allan Liska at Recorded Future, a cybersecurity company, said the cybersecurity community has been on alert for some time now, and companies should be paying close attention to their web traffic and flagging unusual activity.

“We’re surprised it’s taken this long,” he said. “It seems there’s been a lot of delay in Russia from getting to the point of launching the attack against Ukraine to launching some of these cyberattacks that were expected earlier.”

Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Biden had warned that this could happen. He’s been urging private-sector companies to get ready for the possibility by backing up systems, encrypting as much data as possible and adding layers of security, like two-factor authentication.

Liska commends the administration for being forthcoming about the threats, but he’d like to see it taken a step further.

“The government, if they’re not already, really needs to consider offensive activity against Russian state actors to stop them from being able to carry out these attacks,” he said.

The president had classified briefings with leaders from 100 U.S. companies, urging them to beef up cybersecurity.

Russia is considered a hacking powerhouse but its offensive cyberattacks since it invaded Ukraine have been muted compared to what some feared. Russia has carried out significant cyberattacks against Ukraine in years past, including the devastating NotPetya attack in 2017 that spread far and wide and caused more than $10 billion in damage globally.

The United States and its allies have put a slew of sanctions in place aimed at crippling the Russian economy, and Biden recently announced the U.S. is sending more anti-aircraft, anti-armor weapons and drones to help Ukraine.

Neuberger said Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine are ongoing, though she did not provide specifics. She said the Biden administration has made clear there will be consequences if Russia engages with the U.S. in cyberspace.

“We’re not looking for a conflict with Russia. If Russia initiates a cyberattack against the United States, we will respond,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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