Biden tells companies to immediately strengthen defenses against possible Russian cyberattacks

Why this is important: The government previously warned of Russian cyber attacks in Ukraine and elsewhere, but Biden’s statement Monday came under the president’s own name. It too referred to new information about planned attacks rather than potential Russian cyber activities.

Previous warnings from US intelligence agencies about the time and manner in which Russia invaded Ukraine were largely correct. Biden urged companies to “strengthen your cybersecurity immediately”.

No concrete plans known yet: Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, warned that the Russian government was monitoring critical US infrastructure, but did not mention specific plans for attacks. She described Biden’s warning Monday as “a call to action and a call to accountability” to guard against attacks.

“Today we are repeating these warnings, and we are doing so based on evolving threat intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for possible cyberattacks against critical infrastructure in the United States,” Neuberger told reporters at the White House. “To be clear, there is no information that a cyber-attack on critical infrastructure will occur.”

To share the information: Neuberger noted that federal agencies gathered more than 100 US companies to share information about the new intelligence on possible Russian cyberattacks. She said the government has given companies tools to strengthen cybersecurity and security advice about what the government sees.

“There is no evidence of any specific cyberattack that we expect,” Neuberger said. “There’s some preparatory activity that we’re seeing, and that’s what we’ve shared in secret context with companies that we thought might be affected.”

“You’ve seen the administration constantly leaning forward and even sharing fragmentary bits of information that we have to make sure the private sector is maximally prepared,” she said. “So as soon as we heard that, last week we organized secret briefings with companies and sectors that we thought would be most affected and gave very practical, focused advice.”

The best defense: Ahead of Neuberger’s comments, the White House released a factsheet detailing how U.S. companies can defend themselves against cyberattacks, including mandating the use of multi-factor authentication and encrypting data.

Biden said his administration will continue to use “every means necessary to deter, disrupt and respond as necessary to cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure.”

Sam Sabin contributed to this report.

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