The lead U.S. cyber defense agency released a broad national warning Friday night that Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine could spill into hacks against American computer networks.
The “Shields Up” advisory, issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said it was not responding to any specific threats, but acting as a general precaution that conflict with Russia could lead to cyberattacks.
“While there are not currently any specific credible threats to the U.S. homeland, we are mindful of the potential for Russia to consider escalating its destabilizing actions in ways that may impact others outside of Ukraine,” it reads.
U.S. warns Russia could invade Ukraine before end of OlympicsFeb. 12, 202202:33
Noting the broad vulnerability of many U.S. computer networks to hackers, it warned that “Every organization in the United States is at risk from cyber threats that can disrupt essential services and potentially result in impacts to public safety.”
The White House believes Russia, which has stationed troops around its border with Ukraine, could invade the country imminently. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday afternoon that the administration believes there is a “distinct possibility” that could happen before the conclusion of the Olympics on Feb. 20.
There are no publicly known instances where Russia’s state-directed hackers deliberately and successfully deployed destructive malware against America’s energy grid. But that fear has long driven cybersecurity warnings, and the U.S. has released multiple advisories for how cybersecurity workers in the U.S. can counter Russia’s most common hacking tactics.
Russia has conducted such attacks against Ukraine, part of a broader years-long cyber-harassment campaign against its neighbor. In 2015, hackers working for Russian intelligence attacked Ukraine’s power system, causing a temporary blackout for nearly a quarter of a million residents in the capital city of Kyiv.
“Notably, the Russians have used cyber as a key component of their force projection over the last decade, including previously in Ukraine in the 2015 timeframe,” CISA’s warning states. “The Russians understand that disabling or destroying critical infrastructure — including power and communications — can augment pressure on a country’s government, military and population and accelerate their acceding to Russian objectives.”