Russia is a “permissive operating environment” for cybercriminals — one that “is not going to get any smaller” as Russia’s further confrontation with the West over Ukraine continues and sanctions are announced, the FBI’s David Ring said on a phone briefing with private executives and state and local officials, according to two people who were on the call.
Ring asked state and local officials and business executives to consider how ransomware attacks could disrupt the provision of critical services, the people on the call said.
US officials continue to say there are “no specific, credible” threats to the US homeland tied to tensions with Russia over Ukraine, but they are preaching vigilance.
The US could also see “a possible increase in cyber threat activity” from Russian state-backed hackers as a result of those sanctions, Ring said, according to the people on the call.
“DHS has been engaging in an outreach campaign to ensure that public and private sector partners are aware of evolving cybersecurity risks and taking steps to increase their cybersecurity preparation,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement.
CNN has requested comment from the FBI.
While ransomware attacks on US organizations by Russian-speaking hackers have continued, Russian authorities have dangled the prospect of cracking down on some groups in recent months, as the standoff over Ukraine brewed.
In the event of a larger conflict between Russia and Ukraine, US officials are concerned that transportation networks and broadcast media in Ukraine could be shut down by kinetic or cyberattacks, Matthew Hackner, an official in DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said on Tuesday’s phone briefing, according to people on the call.