Biden administration on alert for cyberattacks ahead of Labor Day weekend

Biden press secretary Jen Psaki looks on as Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger speaks on ransom- and cyberware threats
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A top White House official on Thursday underlined preparations the Biden administration is taking for any potential cyberattacks over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, urging companies to be on alert against hackers. 

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, told reporters at the White House that both the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) were monitoring for cybersecurity concerns, but stressed that there were no specific threats on the radar.

“We have no specific threat information or information regarding attacks this weekend, but what we do have is history, and in the past over holiday weekends, attackers have sometimes focused on security operation centers that may be understaffed, or a sense that there are fewer key personnel on duty as they may be on vacation,” Neuberger said. 

“Indeed, a long weekend can sometimes make attackers feel they have extra time to navigate in before they are detected,” she said. “So as the long weekend comes, we want to raise awareness, and this need for awareness is particularly for critical infrastructure owners and operators who operate critical services for Americans.”

Neuberger said that the U.S. intelligence community was monitoring for threats, and that the FBI and CISA are “fully postured and fully prepared” in order to “rapidly” respond to any cybersecurity incidents. 

Her warning came days after the FBI and CISA issued a joint warning to U.S. organizations to be on alert for ransomware attacks during the Labor Day holiday weekend. 

The alert also stressed that the concerns are based on previous recent attacks over holiday weekends, not due to intelligence of specific pending attacks. 

These incidents included the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline ahead of Mother’s Day weekend in May, which led to temporary gas shortages in multiple states, along with the ransomware attack on meat producer JBS USA during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

Software company Kaseya was hit by a ransomware attack during the Fourth of July weekend, with up to 1,500 companies compromised. 

Following these attacks and others in recent months, Neuberger urged U.S. businesses to be prepared for any threats that may be faced in the coming days.

“We also need to look at our own activity, that’s the reason for this today, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to lock our digital doors and ensure that our networks and our organizations are as safe as they need to be online,” she said. 

The Biden administration has made cybersecurity a priority, with President Biden taking office amid the response to the Russian government-backed SolarWinds hack, which involved the breach of nine federal agencies for much of last year. Biden formally sanctioned Russia for the attack in April.

He also signed an executive order to strengthen federal cybersecurity in May and met with leaders from the tech, education, energy, and insurance sectors last week at the White House to discuss further ways to address cybersecurity concerns. 

Neuberger told reporters Thursday that some of the steps mandated by the executive order, such as the use of multi-factor authentication by federal agencies, were on track to be completed this year. 

“We are really tracking October and November to make sure we’ve modernized our defenses across the federal government,” Neuberger said.

Tags anne neuberger CISA Colonial Pipeline cyberattacks Cybercrime Cyberwarfare FBI JBS USA Joe Biden Kasaya Ransomware SolarWinds
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