The war in Ukraine has prompted the United States to accelerate its investments in cybersecurity amid constant warnings – although so far unrealized – of Russian cyberattacks against government agencies, electoral systems and critical infrastructure. .
Following the invasion of Ukraine, federal agencies invested millions in cybertechnology, seized and sanctioned hacking forums, indicted Russian cybercriminals, and issued almost weekly warnings about the latest threat risks.
Even lawmakers in Congress have stepped up their efforts, with the introduction of several cybersecurity-related bills and the passage of a new law requiring companies in critical sectors to report major cyberattacks within 72 hours and payments ransomware within 24 hours.
The legislation passed in March as part of an omnibus spending bill that dramatically increased funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which oversees federal cybersecurity infrastructure and enforcement.
“The war in Ukraine is sort of a focus event to gain legislative initiative and momentum, and gain public support that this is an issue their representatives should care about,” said researcher Jason Blessing. at the American Enterprise Institute.
“As terrible as war is, it is an opportunity for the US government to establish more robust cyber cadre,” he added.
Lawmakers have also held several committee hearings on cybersecurity over the past two weeks, inviting experts — from the private sector and government — to weigh in on current cyber threats and how to stop them.
Although many of these efforts predate the Russian invasion, experts say the war in Ukraine gave momentum and priority to actions, such as lawmakers passing the Cyber Incident Reporting Act and the Ministry of Justice (DOJ) indicting the Russian hackers.
“The DOJ had clearly been investigating the hackers charged in March for some time prior to this announcement, but I think it’s possible that the war prompted them to go public with these charges sooner than they otherwise would have. “said Josephine Wolff, associate professor of cybersecurity policy at Tufts University Fletcher School.
The DOJ in March indicted four Russian nationals accused of hacking into energy sectors in 135 countries. In one of the indictments, a Russian computer programmer and his co-conspirator allegedly targeted a foreign oil facility, causing two separate emergency shutdowns.
“I think the war had some impacts, but I think it’s hard to distinguish them from the work that was already going on and in some cases, rather than sparking new initiatives, the war may have accelerated the schedule of things that were already in the works,” Wolff added.
Although the US is sounding the cyber alarm, Russia is still showing restraint in the face of crippling economic sanctions. Experts and policymakers are still warning that Russian cyber aggression is only a matter of time, especially with the midterm elections approaching.
However, Russia has recently targeted critical infrastructure in European countries, including Ukraine and Germany.
Ukraine has been the target of numerous cyberattacks that have disrupted its government websites and critical infrastructure, including the country’s power grid.
And earlier this month, three Germany-based renewable energy companies revealed they had been victims of cyberattacks that disrupted operations and forced a company to shut down its IT systems.
The attack on the companies follows the decision of many Western European countries to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas as they transition to more environmentally friendly energy sources.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was among the loudest voices warning of Russian cyberaggression against the United States. In a statement to The Hill,
he said the resulting urgency and cooperation has strengthened the country’s cyber defenses, even if the attacks have not materialized.
“The possibility of Russia escalating its cyberaggression has compelled the federal government to seriously address worst-case scenarios and accelerate government and private sector investments in improving our country’s cybersecurity,” Warner said.