The Russian government warned its domestic critical infrastructure operators Thursday of the “threat of an increase in the intensity of computer attacks,” and said that any failure in the operation of critical infrastructure that doesn’t have a “reliably established” cause should be considered “the result of a computer attack.”
The warning, issued through Russia’s National Computer Incident Response & Coordination Center, comes as the Russian military carries out a widespread attack on Ukraine, and after the Ukrainian government accused the Russians of launching a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks and the deployment of wiper malware on Ukrainian government systems ahead of the invasion.
“Attacks can be aimed at disrupting the functioning of information resources and services, causing reputational damage, including for political purposes,” the warning read, according to a Google translation. “In addition, in the future, it is possible to carry out harmful influences from the Russian information space to form a negative image of the Russian Federation in the eyes of the world community.”
The warning did not specify where such attacks might come from.
Earlier Thursday sporadic reports indicated that several Russian government websites, including the official website for the Kremlin, were at least temporarily inaccessible.
President Joe Biden said Thursday that along with economic sanctions, the U.S. is considering a range of options to counter Russia that will play out over time. Russian President Vladimir Putin “chose this war,” he said, and the U.S. is ready to defend its own turf if necessary.
“If Russia pursues cyberattacks against our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond,” Biden said. “For months, we’ve been working closely with the private sector to harden our cyberdefenses [and] sharpen our response to Russian cyberattacks as well.”
Ahead of his remarks, NBC News reported that Biden had been presented with a range of options to “carry out massive cyberattacks designed to disrupt Russia’s ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the report “off base” and said it “does not reflect what is actually being discussed in any shape or form.”
The U.S. government’s response to Russia’s invasion included export controls “designed to severely restrict Russia’s access to technologies and other items it needs to sustain its aggressive military capablities,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The items included on the list include semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers and sensors, the agency said.