The Biden administration is planning a broad set of measures, including sanctions, to punish Russia for the massive SolarWinds spy campaign that has struck the heart of the US government.
U.S. officials have previously said that To hack, which is said to have started early last year, directly affected at least nine federal agencies and around 100 companies. The officials have mentionned the attack was “presumably of Russian origin”, although the US intelligence community has yet to release its final conclusion.
The administration was also planning measures to secure commercial networks and improve third-party services, according to two people briefed on the matter.
“Russia-specific measures are being developed which will go beyond sanctions,” said one of those briefed on the matter, adding that they would be part of a “package” targeting Moscow. .
The envisaged measures underscore the harder line that Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to take against Russia on several fronts, from espionage to human rights, including the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, the leader of the opposition who accused Russian spies of nearly killing him with a nerve agent in August.
Hackers gained access to the systems by hijacking software in March of last year from SolarWinds, a Texas-based information technology company, alongside several other methods.
At least 18,000 companies and agencies were potentially exposed. Hackers then selected particular targets to pursue, hiding in their emails and impersonating legitimate employees in order to gain access to sensitive information in the cloud.
The departments of commerce, energy, justice and the treasury are among those who have admitted their systems have been breached.
Some cyber experts have described the campaign – which is ongoing – as the type of espionage that is common practice in most nation states. But others suggested it was possible it could go further, constituting recognition for potential future disruptive attacks, and urged the Biden administration to retaliate against Russia.
The potential action comes as Senate intelligence officials from both political parties have already complained about the disjointed response to the campaign to date. The Senate and House are holding hearings this week on hacking.
People familiar with the government’s thinking warn the Biden administration has yet to determine the full scope of the measures it would take. U.S. officials want to go beyond sanctions to bring criminal charges against specific Russians, according to those briefed, but that approach will rely on efforts by the U.S. intelligence community to explore hacks to attribute actions to individuals. people.
Anne Neuberger, former director of cybersecurity for the National Security Agency who is leading the administration’s response to the SolarWinds breach, said the U.S. intelligence community is still grappling with responsibility for the large-scale hack.
She told reporters at the White House last week that the total effort could take “months” and that the scale of the potential access “probably far exceeded the number of known compromises.”
She added that the hackers had launched their attack “from within the United States, which made it even more difficult for the United States government to observe their activity” because the intelligence community generally had no visibility on the networks in the area. private.
The Washington Post first reported the administration’s intention to punish Russia.