The US administration has been encouraging US companies for several weeks to prepare for possible cyberattacks on the sidelines of the war in Ukraine, but this time the threat seems to have gone up a notch: US President Joe Biden, citing “evolving information”, warned on Monday March 21 that Russia was considering computer attacks targeting the United States. So far, the White House had certainly encouraged the private sector to strengthen its computer defenses, but had specified that it had no credible information on an imminent attack.
This very rare warning about cyberattacks echoes warnings from Washington and the US security apparatus in the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The United States had repeatedly reported intelligence in its possession announcing a Russian invasion.
The White House does not specify the nature of these ” information “ as to a future digital offensive, and gives no date or indication of potential targets. According to Anne Neuberger, Mr. Biden’s cybersecurity adviser, US authorities have detected ” Preliminary activities “ linked to state-owned hackers. According to New York Timesthe US government shared this information, confidentially, with the private sector last week.
“The national interest is at stake”
The White House alert is more specifically aimed at “critical infrastructure”such as communication, electricity or water networks. “Most critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector” notes the American president, emphasizing for them the need to“accelerate efforts to close [leurs] digital gates ». “The national interest is at stake” underlined the American president during a round table with representatives of the business world, shortly before his official press release. “One of the tools that [Vladimir Poutine] is most likely to use is cyberattacks. They have very sophisticated cyber capabilities. [Poutine] hasn’t used them to date, but it’s part of his tactics.” he warned.
A fear shared by experts, many of whom believe the Kremlin chief could use cyberattacks as a way to thwart the West without engaging in open conflict. “Western sanctions and aid to Ukraine could lead Russian hackers to lash out at the West, sending a clear message: ‘Stop, we can make this a whole lot worse for you.” » writes for example Chris Krebs, the former director of the American cybersecurity agency, in the FinancialTimes.