Biden warns cyber attacks could lead to 'a real shooting war'

Cyber security has risen to the top of the agenda for President Joe Biden's administration after attacks on US entities. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday (July 27) warned that a significant cyber attack on the United States could lead to "a real shooting war" with a major power, comments that highlight what Washington sees as growing threats posed by Russia and China.

Cyber security has risen to the top of the agenda for the Biden administration after a series of high-profile attacks on entities such as network management company SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline company, meat processing company JBS and software firm Kaseya hurt the US far beyond just the companies hacked.

Some of the attacks affected fuel and food supplies in parts of the US.

"I think it's more than likely we're going to end up, 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 and it's increasing exponentially, the capabilities," Mr Biden said during a half-hour speech while visiting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

During a June 16 summit in Geneva between Mr Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Biden shared a list of critical infrastructure that the US considers off-limits to nation-state actors.

Since then, senior members of the Biden administration's national security team have been in constant contact with senior members of the Kremlin over cyber attacks on the US, the White House has said.

Mr Biden accused Mr Putin of seeking to disrupt the 2022 US congressional elections by spreading "misinformation".

"Look at what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation," Mr Biden said, referring to information he receives during his daily briefing. "It's a pure violation of our sovereignty."

He also said Mr Putin has "a real problem, he is sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and nothing else".

"He knows he is in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous in my view."

Mr Biden also highlighted the threats posed by China, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping as "deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world by the mid-40s, the 2040s".

During his speech, Mr Biden thanked members of US intelligence agencies, emphasised his confidence in the work they do and said he will not exert political pressure on them.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversees 17 US intelligence organisations.

Remote video URL

Mr Biden's comments offered a clear departure from remarks made by his predecessor Donald Trump, who had a contentious relationship with intelligence agencies over issues such as their assessment that Russia had interfered to help Mr Trump win the 2016 election and their role in revealing that Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden.

Mr Trump went through four permanent or acting directors of national intelligence during his four years in office.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.