The United States’ Cyber Command is preparing to retaliate against alleged Russian and/or Chinese cyber attacks.
This, according to the New York Times, will happen in several major moves.
“The first major move is expected over the next three weeks, officials said, with a series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world.”
As usual, nothing the US does internationally comes without sanctions, so there will also be economic sanctions.
An additional thing that’s expected is an executive order from Mr. Biden to accelerate the hardening of federal government networks after the alleged Russian hacking, which went undetected for months until it was discovered by a private cybersecurity firm.
Additionally, there was another cyber attack. A major breach in Microsoft email systems used by small businesses, local governments and, by some accounts, key military contractors was exposed.
Microsoft identified the intruders as a state-sponsored Chinese group and moved quickly to issue a patch to allow users of its software to close off the vulnerability.
The United States government has not made public any formal determination of who was responsible for the hacking, but at the White House and on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., the fear is that espionage and theft may be a prelude to far more destructive activity, such as changing data or wiping it out.
Patching and mitigation is not remediation if the servers have already been compromised. It is essential that any organization with a vulnerable server take immediate measures to determine if they were already targeted. https://t.co/HYKF2lA7sn
— National Security Council (@WHNSC) March 6, 2021
The White House underscored the seriousness of the situation in a statement on Sunday from the National Security Council.
“The White House is undertaking a whole of government response to assess and address the impact” of the Microsoft intrusion, the statement said. It said the response was being led by Anne Neuberger, a former senior National Security Agency official who is the first occupant of a newly created post: deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said on Twitter on March 4th that the White House was “closely tracking” the reports that the vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange were being used in “potential compromises of U.S. think tanks and defense industrial base entities.”
A mix of public sanctions and private actions is the most likely combination to force a “broad strategic discussion with the Russians,” Sullivan said in an interview, before the scope of the alleged Chinese attack was clear.
“I actually believe that a set of measures that are understood by the Russians, but may not be visible to the broader world, are actually likely to be the most effective measures in terms of clarifying what the United States believes are in bounds and out of bounds, and what we are prepared to do in response,” he added.
There is no doubt that these are Russians and Chinese, no evidence is ever presented, but who needs any, either way.
“Like the Russians, the Chinese attackers initiated their campaign against Microsoft from computer servers — essentially cloud services — that they rented under assumed identities in the United States. Both countries know that American law prohibits intelligence agencies from looking in systems based in the United States, and they are exploiting that legal restriction.”
“The Chinese actor apparently spent the time to research the legal authorities and recognized that if they could operate from inside the United States, it takes some of the government’s best threat-hunters off the field,” Tom Burt, the Microsoft executive overseeing the investigation said.
The US is preparing for retaliations to any cyber attack, be it real or not, and it will be accompanied by heavy sanctions and more.
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