Cyberattacks from Russia possible after U.S. imposes sanctions

Cyberattacks knocked out gas pipelines and meat packing plants last year and now, there are new warnings that Russia could be planning a wave of cyberattacks in the U.S. in response to sanctions. 

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Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tells FOX 5 he expects Russia's cyber warfare in Ukraine will spill over to the states.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have both issued bulletins to private sector companies to prepare for state-sponsored cyberattacks launched by Russia.

The warning says Russian agents "have used spear-phishing and brute force cyber network attacks" to exploit vulnerabilities in accounts and networks.

Retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons says the attacks would have two goals: disrupting life in the U.S. and damaging public trust if the U.S. government can't block the attacks.

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"They could create something that threatens the electrical grid or takes out a water plant, that could affect citizens in the United States for days, so probably I think it has to do with people not having confidence in their government, not being able to recover quickly and not having backups in place to do that," says Maj. Lyons.

In May 2021, a cyberattack crippled the Colonial Pipeline, stopping gas distribution for a week and causing outages and gas lines at stations across the DMV. 

In June 2021, Russian cyber hackers seized meat packing giant JBS.

"The banks, they’ve got some of the most sophisticated cyber detection techniques that are out there," Maj. Lyons says. "They’ve got the best and the brightest working in their industry, the telecoms as well are monitoring the traffic going over the internet, and you have the energy and industrial companies doing the same thing." 

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Russian expert and historian Craig Shirley says he's concerned the U.S. hasn't been strong in dealing with Russia.

"Biden so far I don't think has projected toughness military or diplomatically or otherwise economically either in the United States or in Europe and sometimes the way to be tough is to not be involved," he says. "The American people’s priority naturally is themselves, their own security and their own freedom and their own pocketbook, and right now they are worried [about] their pocketbook, and they’re worked about their freedom."

Experts say there's a big difference between the cyberattacks from last year and what could happen now. The Colonial Pipeline and JBS hackers were after ransom money. Colonial paid $4 million and JBS paid $11 million.


This time, if the Russian government launches cyberattacks, there could be no ransom put on the damage, leading to the real possibility of escalating cyber warfare between Russia and the U.S.