THE US is reportedly preparing to launch an all-out cyberwar on Russia in retaliation for a nine-month hack that targeted federal government systems.
The Biden administration is planning action after US company SolarWinds was used to infiltrate a nuclear weapons stockade during a “virtual invasion”.
Microsoft was also targeted during the attack.
Now reports in the New York Times claim that in the coming weeks, the US will launch a series of clandestine retaliations against Russian networks in a bid to show Putin the breach won’t go unmarked.
This morning, several Russian websites – including the Kremlin government portal itself – seemingly went offline.
The websites of the government, prime minster and other state departments were unavailable.
Meanwhile, popular web services were also out of action.
It’s not yet known if the sites were hit during a targeted cyber attack by the US.
However, it’s understood there’s a possibility the sites went down after Biden ordered American reprisals.
It comes after hackers believed to be from Russia used the corruption of SolarWinds updates to break in to US networks.
The client list for SolarWinds is broad and has included 425 of the companies listed on the Fortune 500, as well as the top 10 telecom operators in the states, the Verge reported.
Top senators on the Armed Services Committee reportedly said the “ongoing” attack had “the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation” after the FBI confirmed the multi-department hack.
Worryingly, the hackers remained undetected for almost a year. It’s feared thousands of companies and government agencies were affected during the attack.
The malware used in the breach – which poses a “grave threat” to America – was “isolated to business networks only” and has not affected US national security, an Energy Department spokeswoman said.
However, the true scale of the hack may take years to assess, experts say.
The White House itself has not made any public comments about the international response to the SolarWinds hack, but it has been working with Microsoft on an investigation into the intrusion.
And President Biden has created a new post of deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology in response.
The US has been aware of potential cyber attacks from Russia for years, and in August 2018 President Trump reportedly signed a secret document giving US Cyber Command more power to act aggressively when faced with online warfare.
That document is currently under review by the Biden administration.
The FBI acknowledged there is a major “ongoing cybersecurity campaign” under way.
And former Homeland Security Secretary to Trump, Tom Bossert, wrote in a Times op-ed that the hack was “hard to overstate.”
“The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months.
“We are sick, distracted, and now under cyberattack. Leadership is essential,” Bossert said.