President Biden is facing massive backlash after he gave a list of 16 key infrastructure entities that are “off-limits” to Russian-based cyberattacks to Putin. National security experts are getting vocal on how this list gives Russians a green light to target everything not on the list without facing any repercussions.
Russian cybercriminals are believed to be behind a pair of recent cyberattacks targeting the Colonial Pipeline and meat-processing company JBS Holdings. Both companies paid multi-million dollar ransoms to regain access to their systems.
Biden told reporters Wednesday: “I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off-limits to attack — period — by cyber or any other means. I gave them a list if I’m not mistaken — I don’t have it in front of me — 16 specific entities; 16 defined as critical infrastructure under U.S. policy, from the energy sector to our water systems.”
“As soon as you draw red circles around things you don’t want Russia to attack, you’re both telling Russia what is most valuable to you and that they can attack anything else without serious consequence,” Rebecca Heinrichs, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News.
“It could actually entice Russia to increase attacks against all the other entities besides those 16 things. We should be complicating Russia’s calculations not making them simpler and certainly not essentially green-lighting any kinds of attacks,” Heinrichs added.
“I’m very circumspect about Biden’s actions in this summit because we’re supposed to impose costs when cyberattacks occur and when they meet a level of attribution to a state,” said Kara Frederick, a research fellow in technology policy at the Heritage Foundation.
“Most cybercriminals in Russia operate with tacit state approval,” Frederick noted. “Instead of painting a target on 16 of these things, we should be disrupting their networks,” she added.
Those criticisms were echoed by a long list of Republicans on Capitol Hill, whose reactions to Biden’s list ranged from incredulity to anger.