Sen. Mark Warner advises the U.S. and NATO allies to be on high alert amid global sanctions against Russia.
Russia is expected to increase its cyber attacks as it continues a military assault on Ukraine, and one lawmaker warns that the U.S. should be prepared for future high level digital attacks.
Speaking live to The Washington Post on Monday, Senator Mark Warner, D-Va. spoke about Russia’s cyber attacks on Ukraine’s networks and the spread of disinformation as part of the country’s offensive strategy.
“Do I expect Russia to up its game on cyber? Absolutely,” Warner said. “I do think we need to be prepared for high level––his A-Team––attacks against the West whether they start with nations in NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] that have weaker cyber controls or whether they go straight against the United States, Britain, France, Germany.”
Warner hypothesized that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not prioritize launching cyberattacks against Ukraine’s infrastructure, and that the U.S. and other NATO allies should brace for major cyber hacks.
“When a top tier nation uses their top talent to attack in the cyber domain, chances are we will not be 100% effective at keeping the adversary out,” he said. Warner praised Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly for strengthening protocols and being alert against cyberattacks and ransomware.
“I think we will probably see that in the coming days and weeks as Putin tries to lash out against these crippling level of sanctions we put on him,” Warner added.
When asked about cyberattacks as a potential violation against Article Five of the NATO treaty—which would constitute an attack against all participating NATO countries—Warner said it should be considered a breach.
“We have always reserved the right to respond to a cyber attack in another domain, kinetic or otherwise,” he said. “And the reason for that is, you know, quite honestly, we have hundreds if not thousands of cyber weapons. The Russians have the same. These can be extraordinarily destructive. And if you get into the cyber escalation, you don't know where it would end.”
Warner also advocated an international policy that regards cyberattacks as serious offenses between countries, particularly concerning critical infrastructure. The U.S. recently confronted a major infrastructure ransomware attack on the Colonial oil pipeline in the summer of 2021. The software was linked to Russian hackers.
“There needs to be a cyber Geneva Convention, rules of the road here, not only in terms of cyber crimes, but as we see now in terms of using these tools and in the acts of war,” he said.
This conversation follows Warner’s letters sent last Friday to social media platforms requesting the removal of content published by Russian state media and other propaganda organizations to prevent misinformation from spreading.
And while Warner commended all companies, and Big Tech especially, for complying, he said that major online platforms need to be more responsible in monitoring content.
“At this moment in time when these companies have such enormous power, I shouldn't have to rely on their goodwill. We need some rules of the road on social media,” he said.