U.S. Plans Quiet Payback to Russians for SolarWinds Cyberattack: Report

The Biden administration reportedly plans to launch a series of covert cyber offenses aimed at Russian networks to retaliate for the widely reported SolarWinds hack that hit government agencies and critical infrastructure.

A New York Times (NYT) report said U.S. officials were plotting a “series of clandestine actions across Russian networks” beginning sometime in the next three weeks to quietly get the attention of President Putin and the Kremlin’s intelligence services. Biden also intends to impose additional economic sanctions, although at this point it’s questionable if pinches of that sort deter foreign cyber espionage. An executive order to further harden federal government networks is also part of the operation, the report said.

Russia called the NYT report “alarming information.” Were such attacks to occur it would amount to “pure international cyber crime,” a Kremlin spokesperson said, Reuters reported.

United States: Cyber Defense Plus Cyber Offense?

Less than two months into his presidency, Biden is trying to frame U.S. policy on how his administration will respond to cyber attacks by foreign adversaries, namely Russia, China and North Korea, to pry loose highly classified information from the government and surveil the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told the NYT that the new administration intends to stake out its cyber boundaries. “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 said.

United States: Preparing Next Cyber Moves

Sullivan’s position echoed his remarks of two weeks earlier on CBS News’ Face the Nation, when he said the administration would respond within “weeks, not months” to the Russian-conducted SolarWinds hack. “We’re in the process of working through that, and we will ensure that Russia understands where the United States draws the line on this kind of activity,” he said.

Biden had earlier vowed that the SolarWinds attack will not “go unanswered.”

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