In a speech on Monday, Joe Biden stressed the need for “modernizing” US defense capabilities in the face of threats from China and Russia. Biden also addressed the recently discovered hack of the software company SolarWinds that affected several government agencies.
Biden said he spoke with a member of his transition team about the “different strategic challenges we’re gonna face from both Russia and China and the reforms we must make to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to meet those challenges.” He said those reforms include “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future.”
“We have to be able to innovate, to reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace,” Biden said. “We’re still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed. As I said last week, this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security.”
In comments last week, Biden slammed President Trump for not prioritizing cybersecurity and, like many have, blamed Russia for the SolarWinds hack, despite a lack of evidence that Moscow was involved. The former vice president has also vowed retaliation for the SolarWinds hack, and Biden’s chief of staff said the incoming administration’s response would be more than “just sanctions.”
Sources close to the transition team told Reuters that responses being mulled by the administration are financial penalties and hacks on Russia’s infrastructure. In recent years, the US has stepped up offensive operations in the cyber realm.
After the November presidential election, Cyber Command Chief Gen. Paul Nakasone said the US took action against “adversaries” to prevent election interference. In September, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate hearing that the FBI has been feeding intelligence to the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies to carry out offensive cyber operations.
In July, sources told Yahoo News that President Trump gave the CIA new authorities in 2018 that allowed the agency to increase cyber attacks. The report said the CIA used the new powers to carry out operations against Iran and other so-called “adversary” nations.