Former NSA boss says US is ‘not ready’ for cyberattacks from China and Russia

May 30, 2021    By:  Jake Dima  Washington Examiner

Former National Security Agencychief Keith Alexander warned that the United States is “not ready” to combat against a potential flurry of cyberattacks from Russia and China.

On Sunday, Alexander said hacks from the two nations are “more blatant than” any he’s ever seen throughout his “whole career.” The former NSA boss said President Joe Biden’s March 12 executive order, which was intended to bolster the country’s response to cyberattacks through coordination with the private sector, is a step in the right direction, adding that more needs to be done.

“Both Russia and China are challenging us in this space, and it’s shown that we’re not ready,” he told ABC’s Martha Raddatz. “I think the executive order has some part of it, [but] we have to go faster. In my experience, the private sector is ready, they’re pushing forward.”

U.S. vulnerabilities were exposed both during the Russian SolarWinds Hack last year and the Colonial Pipeline breach earlier in the month, which roiled the country’s supply of gasoline and caused widespread shortages down the East Coast. The Colonial compromise was said to have been perpetuated by the criminal enterprise DarkSide, though Alexander posited that the group may have been associated with the Kremlin.

“And the Colonial Pipeline, even though they claim that was from hackers, I believe they’re associated somehow. They’re sending a message, and they’re doing it blatantly, and they’re going after our intelligence system, and they’re saying, ‘We can do this.’ We’ve got to fix it.”

Biden imposed stringent sanctions on Russia in mid-April in retaliation for the SolarWinds hack, which compromised a number of federal government data sources, and in response to evidence that the Kremlin meddled in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. The president is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month.

“The Russian hackers are clearly after gaining intelligence on our country, on what the administration is doing, what President Biden is thinking and what’s coming up against Russia as they prepare for the upcoming talks between President Biden and Putin,” Alexander said.

In response to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas implemented a slew of new protocols for pipeline executives on Thursday. DHS, alongside the Transportation Security Administration, will require pipeline owners and operators to report both confirmed and potential security breaches to DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Oil infrastructure executives must “designate a Cybersecurity Coordinator, to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week” and review practices to identify gaps. Executives have also been told to submit cybersecurity reports to CISA and the TSA within 30 days.

“The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving and we must adapt to address new and emerging threats,” Mayorkas said in a statement at the time. “The recent ransomware attack on a major petroleum pipeline demonstrates that the cybersecurity of pipeline systems is critical to our homeland security. DHS will continue to work closely with our private sector partners to support their operations and increase the resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

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