The United States and United Kingdom issued a joint alert Monday warning of malicious cyberattacks that they believe Russia is perpetrating.
The two powers said Russia has initiated a global cyber-campaign to compromise essential network hardware so that it could view the data passing through. The Kremlin could then use that information to spy, steal intellectual property, and possibly set up future attacks on infrastructure, the alert said.
While officials are still unsure how successful the attacks on millions of machines have been so far, they reported that Russia targeted government departments, large companies, internet-service providers, and infrastructure firms.
The response will be outlined in a report about possible defense strategies, including retaliatory cyberattacks as well as new sanctions and indictments.
“It is a tremendous weapon in the hands of an adversary,” said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator. “When we see malicious cyber-activity, whether Kremlin or other nation state actors, we are going to push back.”
“Once you own the router, you own the traffic that’s traversing the router,” added Jeanette Manfra, the Homeland Security Department’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications.
The U.S. and U.K. blamed Russia last year for cyberattacks that paralyzed the National Health Service and the American energy grid. Their response is “a significant moment in the transatlantic fight back against Russian aggression in cyberspace,” said the head of the British National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin.
Russia was angered when the U.K., the U.S., and France launched 105 missiles on apparent chemical-weapons sites in Syria, Russia’s close ally, on Friday. The Pentagon subsequently reported that Russia flooded the internet with 2000 percent more bots in the 24 hours following the allies’ targeted strikes.
British prime minister Theresa May said the retaliatory strikes were “absolutely in our national interest.” President Trump, meanwhile, congratulated the French and British militaries for joining in the “perfectly executed strike.”
A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2018