The White House issued a call to action today to critical infrastructure (CI) companies to strengthen their cyber defenses, based on evolving threat intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure.

The Biden administration has previously warned CI companies to keep their guard up against potential Russian cyberattacks, but the administration said it was reiterating those warnings today after seeing continued “preparatory activity” from Russia.

“I have previously warned about the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners. It’s part of Russia’s playbook,” President Biden said in a statement. “Today, my administration is reiterating those warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”

The Biden administration also issued a fact sheet today for the private sector and CI companies to follow to protect themselves against cyberattacks and protect the critical services that all Americans rely on.

During today’s White House press briefing, Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, stressed that “there is no certainty there’ll be a cyber incident on critical infrastructure.”

“This is a call to action and a call to responsibility for all of us,” Neuberger said. “At the president’s direction, the administration has worked extensively over the last year to prepare to meet this sort of threat, providing unprecedented warning and advice to the private sector and mandating cybersecurity measures where we have the authority to do so.”

Neuberger explained that last week, Federal agencies convened over 100 companies to share both classified and unclassified cybersecurity threat information, in light of the evolving threat intelligence.

Today’s unclassified announcement, Neuberger said, aims to raise that broader awareness and to raise that call to action for all companies to shore up their cyber defenses.

“I want to reiterate, there is no evidence of any specific cyberattack that we’re anticipating for,” Neuberger said. “There was some preparatory activity that we’re seeing and that is what we shared in a classified context with companies who we thought might be affected. And then we’re lifting up a broader awareness here in this warning.”

“Bottom line, this is about us; the work we need to do to lock our digital doors and to put the country in the best defensive position,” Neuberger added. “And there is ‘them.’ As the president has said, the United States is not seeking confrontation with Russia, but he has also said that if Russia conducts disruptive cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, we will be prepared to respond.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.