White House Warns Companies to Encrypt Data in Case of Russian Cyberattack

The White House urged companies to encrypt their data because Russia may plan a cyberattack against the United States in response to the sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The government said there is evolving intelligence that Russia may be looking at methods for a potential cyberattack. In order to protect business data, the government is warning companies to encrypt data so it can't be used if it is stolen and to have offline backups that attackers cannot access, the White House said in a statement on Monday.

The U.S. has been warning about a possible Russian cyberattack since before its invasion of Ukraine began. The White House previously said the Russian government was responsible for widespread cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks and Ukraine's Ministry of Defence. Additionally, experts think a cyberattack against Israel last Tuesday may be connected to Iran and to Russia's conflict in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that his administration is working to "improve domestic cybersecurity and bolder out national resilience" in preparation for a possible cyberattack against U.S. infrastructure, which would be "part of Russia's playbook."

The Biden administration urged the private sector to "accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors" in order protect critical services Americans rely on.

"My administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. But the Federal Government can't defend against this threat alone," Biden said.

The White House listed steps for companies to follow to increase the protection of their information such as implementing multi-factor authentication to make it harder for attackers to enter systems, adding security tools to look for threats, checking with cybersecurity professionals to make sure systems are protected against vulnerabilities and running exercises for emergency plans to minimize the impact of any attack.

"You have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of the critical services and technologies on which Americans rely. We need everyone to do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time," Biden said in the statement.

The Biden administration has been working on increasing the country's cybersecurity defenses and issued an executive order in May 2021 regarding improvements in cybersecurity. The president launched public and private action plans to help bolster the cybersecurity of the electricity, pipeline and water sectors, the White House added. He also has required all software the government purchases to meet security standards.

Follow Newsweek's live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Update 3/21/22, 3:46 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information.

Russia May Plan Cyberattack Against US
The White House urged companies to encrypt their data because Russia may plan a cyberattack against the United States in response to the sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Above, the White House logo is displayed in the press briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 31, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images