More and more targets in the USA and in other countries are being attacked by hackers – US President Biden sees this as an immense risk. Now he even warned of war as a result of a cyber-attack.
According to President Joe Biden, large-scale hacker attacks on the USA could spark a war. “If we send in a war, a real war with a great power, then as a result of a cyberattack of great significance,” he warned during the first visit to the Office of the Intelligence Service Coordination (ODNI) since taking office. “And the capabilities (for such a cyberattack) are increasing exponentially,” he added.
Hacker attacks from Russia and China
Against this background, he described Russia and China as growing threats to national security in the United States. There is a growing wave of cyberattacks, including so-called ransomware, on American government agencies and the private sector, which US officials bring into contact with agents in both countries.
Russia: Criminals and Secret Services
With regard to Russia, on the other hand, the US criticizes two different types of hacker attacks: on the one hand, by criminals who, according to US reports, can attack targets abroad undisturbed; on the other hand from Russian secret services to ministries, authorities, and companies in the USA. You have already imposed sanctions on Russia for this reason. The Russian government denies such attacks.
Hundreds of companies attacked
It was not until the beginning of July that hackers attacked hundreds of companies with blackmail software through a vulnerability at the American IT service provider Kaseya. The Ravil group, located by experts in Russia, demanded 70 million US dollars (around 59 million euros) in the digital currency Bitcoin for a master key to all affected computers.
The same group was behind the attack on the world’s largest meat company JBS a few weeks ago. As a result, the company had to close plants for several days, including in the USA. JBS paid the attackers the equivalent of eleven million dollars in cryptocurrencies.
“Damage and Disruption in the Real World”
A few weeks before JBS it hit the operator of one of the most important gasoline pipelines in the USA. The stop of the pumps partly triggered panic buying on the US east coast. The operating company Colonial paid the hackers $ 4.4 million – a good half of which was, however, confiscated online by the FBI a little later.
“We’ve seen cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, increasing their ability to cause damage and disruption in the real world,” said Biden.
Conversation with Putin about “taboo goals”
Amid high tension over the recent hacker attacks, Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin agreed at a summit meeting in Geneva in June that their governments would start talks on cybersecurity. It should be about addressing specific cases and defining goals that should be taboo for attacks.
Biden had given Moscow a list of 16 areas of critical US infrastructure that should not be attacked by hackers. According to the US government, these include the food and energy sectors, transport and communication networks, banks, and healthcare facilities.
Cyber attack protection plans
The US government has now presented plans to improve the protection of such critical infrastructures. Among other things, the US authority for cyber and infrastructure security (CISA) is to develop targets together with other bodies that private operators should adhere to in order to protect their systems.
A senior government official said the state cannot act alone, industry must do its part. Almost 90 percent of the critical infrastructure in the US is in the hands of the private sector. Initially, voluntary steps are planned to improve protection. The government is also considering issuing mandatory requirements to strengthen cybersecurity. There are currently no systematic regulations, only patches. This is “insufficient” in view of the growing threat.
Trust in Secret Service Workers
In his address to the secret service coordination office, which oversees 17 US intelligence services, Biden also struggled to repair damage from the past. His Republican predecessor Donald Trump had sharply criticized the intelligence services and, for example, questioned the findings of the American secret services about Russia’s interference in the US elections in 2016. Trump then duped his own people.