WASHINGTON – Russia may increasingly turn to brazen cyberattacks as its military is hampered by Ukrainian forces, according to a senior U.S. cybersecurity official.
While a feared spate of cyberattacks on US networks and critical infrastructure failed to materialize at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a protracted conflict could motivate Moscow to take more aggressive action in cyberspace, Neal Higgins, deputy national cyber director for national cybersecurity, said June 14 .
“Slow military advance continues to frustrate the Russians on the ground in Ukraine. They may increasingly consider cyber options to divide our allies and dilute international resolve against their actions,” said Higgins at an event hosted by Defense One. “We haven’t seen that yet, but we’re not over the hill yet. We must keep our shields up, we must not let go of our vigilance.”
President Joe Biden warned in March that evolving intelligence agencies showed Russia was planning potential state cyberattacks. He said the scale of Russia’s cyber capabilities is “quite momentous and coming.”
Military leaders, lawmakers and analysts also warned of a dangerous cyber spillover in the early days of the Russian offensive.
“The Russians have a history of using poorly controlled, damaging attacks that can spread beyond their intended targets,” Higgins said. “This most famously happened in 2017 with the NotPetya attack, which focused on Ukraine but caused billions of dollars in damage worldwide.”
Russia has bombarded Ukraine with cyber attacks in the run-up to its invasion this year and continues to attack digital systems. The US, Canada and the European powers in May blamed the Kremlin for a cyberattack on Viasat in February that disrupted internet service for tens of thousands of people, including those in central Europe.
“The last 24 months has seen an unprecedented surge in high-profile cyber events, from SolarWinds as of late 2020 to Kaseya, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods to the deployment of cyberattacks related to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Higgins said.
Viasat reported the hack to C4ISRNET in March had no impact on US government customers and your data is not compromised. The core network infrastructure and gateways were also not compromised.
Russia has denied wrongdoing in the past.
In response to the growing threat, the US government called on the private sector and others to do so strengthen their cybersecurity practices and look out for irregularities. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a “Shields Up” notice warning that Russian warfare “could affect organizations inside and outside the region, including malicious cyber activity against the US homeland.”
Higgins said Tuesday the US is now better prepared for cyberattacks.
“One of the most important activities you’ve seen since the threat of the Russian invasion of Ukraine really started to metastasize in late 2021 has been greater collaboration between government and the private sector, including through the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, the JCDC of CISA”, he said. “But less visibly, a lot of work has been done to ensure we are defended as well as possible.”
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