In context: We've seen an increase in the number of large-scale cyberattacks recently, from hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server software to the REvil ransomware infections. And while the damage these incidents cause can be severe, President Biden has warned that they could lead to something even more serious: "a real shooting war."
Speaking at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence yesterday, Biden talked about the new security challenges facing the US intelligence community.
"We've seen how cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption to the real world," he said. "I can't guarantee this, and you're as informed as I am, but I think it's more likely […] if we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power, it's going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence."
Biden discussed ransomware attacks with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. POTUS warned that the US would retaliate if Russia didn't do more to stop attacks that originate from within the country.
While not related to cyberattacks, Biden spoke about Putin yesterday, describing him as "sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else" and therefore "in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous, in my view."
Biden also touched on Russia's interference in the US elections. "Look what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation. It's a pure violation of our sovereignty," he said. "I think we also need to take on the rampant disinformation that is making it harder and harder for people to […] assess the facts, be able to make decisions."
China, which the US blames for the Microsoft Exchange Server hack, was another topic. Biden said President Xi Jinping is "deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest—the most prominent economy in the world by the mid-40s."
There was also a warning that the US must stay ahead of countries such as Russia and China in the tech race. "It's especially important that we work closely with our partners and allies to maintain our technological edge—shore up supply chains, ensure that the rules that govern technologies support democracies, not autocracies."
It should be noted that both the Obama and Trump administrations also warned that the US reserves the right to respond to cyberattacks with the military.