Russian hackers detected scanning energy company systems and other critical infrastructure, FBI officials tells US lawmakers
US lawmakers have been warned that Russian hackers have been scanning systems belonging to critical industries in the United States.
Reuters reported that a senior cyber official at the FBI on Tuesday said that Russian hackers have been scanning the systems of energy companies and other critical infrastructure in the United States.
The FBI official also said that state-sponsored hacking by Russia presents a “current” threat to American national security.
“The threat from Russia in a criminal sense, in the nation state sense, is very, very real – and current,” Bryan Vorndran, an assistant director in the FBI’s cyber division, reportedly said during a hearing before a US House of Representatives panel.
Vorndran reportedly told US lawmakers that “instances of Russian scanning” networks in the US energy sector have increased recently, and he said such activity represents a “reconnaissance phase” by Russia to try and understand a company’s defences and whether it has vulnerabilities that could be exploited.
“It’s an extremely important part of the overall attacks,” he noted, adding later in his testimony that Russia represents “one of the two most capable cyber adversaries we face globally,” and is “a formidable foe.”
The White House recently warned US companies about intelligence suggesting that Russia has been taking early steps toward possibly launching cyberattacks.
It should be remembered that the cyberattack issue was raised during face-to-face talks between US President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in June 2021, and said certain critical infrastructure should be “off-limits” to cyberattacks.
Biden and Putin spent much of that face-to-face meeting in Geneva talking about cybersecurity issues, with Biden warning Putin of ‘retaliation’ and an ‘aggressive response’ if Russia attacks a list of 16 ‘critical’ industries in America.
Then in July 2021 President Biden underscored the issue of cyberattacks, when he admitted they could cause a ‘real shooting war’ with a ‘major power’.
Since that time the FBI’s Vorndran told US lawmakers he was aware of software companies, among others who have been targeted with attacks.
“There are compromises against some of those 16 critical infrastructure sectors,” he said. “I can’t speak specifically to which ones.”
Ever since 2011 the United States said it reserved the right to retaliate with military force against a cyberattack from a hostile state.