Russian spy agencies warn of US cyber retaliation

Moscow denies involvement in the SolarWinds attack but still fears US payback

Authorities in Russia have warned businesses in the country that they could be at risk of US retaliation following the recent SolarWinds attacks.

A security alert was issued late last week by the National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTSKI), a security agency founded by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

The agency claimed the new Biden administration had threatened to carry out reprisal attacks on critical Russian infrastructure after a massive cyber-espionage campaign was carried out on the US government and other organizations.

However, comments made by White House officials were only to point out that they “reserve the right to respond at a time and manner of our choosing to any cyberattack.” This was little more than repeating previous statements.

The bulletin cited comments from the Biden administration and a shortlist of security best practices that organizations should follow to remain secure online.

The basic advice included updating guidelines for responding to computer incidents, conducting security audits, avoiding third-party DNS servers, and using multi-factor authentication.

There is also advice on using firewalls, application controls, updating passwords, and quickly applying security updates. 

This advice comes after the US blamed Russia for the SolarWinds attack earlier this month. It has emerged that Kremlin-backed hackers carried out a major cyber-espionage operation on government departments, including the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Treasury Department. SolarWinds disclosed the sophisticated supply-chain cyber attack that affected 18,000 customers.

The US government believed the Russian-backed were aiming to steal sensitive data in the cloud, including confidential files and emails. Russian officials have denied having any input in the incident.

In a press conference, the Biden administration has promised to spend $9 billion on modernizing IT use in the federal government. It’ll use the funds to help launch new IT and shared services in the US Cyber and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration (GSA). 

The federal government would spend around $200 million to hire hundreds of security experts to support the US Federal CISO and US Digital Service. About another $690 million would improve security monitoring and incident response activities across federal civilian networks.

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