President Joe Biden warned that a major cyberattack on the United States could lead to an actual “shooting war,” in comments that mentioned Russia and China as threats to U.S. national security.
"I think it's more than likely we're going to end up, if we end up in a war -- a real shooting war with a major power -- it's going to be as a consequence of a cyberbreach of great consequence. And it's increasing exponentially, the capabilities," Biden said in a speech to the U.S. intelligence community on July 27.
Biden noted a growing number of cyberattacks against government agencies and private industry that U.S. officials have linked to Russia and China.
Cybersecurity has moved to the top of the Biden administration’s agenda after a string of attacks during his first six months in office, including ransomware attacks.
At a Geneva summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Biden said the two leaders discussed keeping 16 types of critical infrastructure off-limits to cyberattacks, including the energy and water sectors.
Biden entered office having to deal with the fallout of the SolarWinds hack that affected U.S. government agencies and businesses, a sophisticated attack blamed on Russian government hackers.
Suspected Russia-based criminal groups have also been linked to high-profile ransomware attacks targeting Colonial Pipeline and meat-processing giant JBS. Another hit technology firm Kaseya that impacted hundreds of businesses globally.
The Kremlin scoffed at Biden's assessment that Russia "has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else," saying the speech appeared to be tailored toward the U.S. intelligence community.
"(The United States) can hardly be called a partner. It is more like an opponent or a 'vis-a-vis'," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in Moscow on July 28.
"Still the fact that experts are sitting in Geneva today is a positive sign," he added in reference to one-day talks being held between the two sides in Geneva on July 28 as part of the so-called Strategic Stability Dialogue aimed at laying "the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures."
The United States and its Western allies earlier this month blamed China for a global hacking campaign that included a massive attack on Microsoft software and accused Beijing of complicity with hackers in ransomware and other cyberattacks.