Cyber Attacks Are Most Likely Way To Get US Into ‘Real Shooting War,’ Biden Says

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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The most likely catalyst for the U.S. engaging in a “real shooting war” with another world power would be a major cyber attack, President Joe Biden told intelligence officials Tuesday.

Biden made the claim Tuesday during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The president has repeatedly warned both Russia and China that they will face consequences if cyber attacks against the U.S. continue to originate from their countries, but he has never gone so far as to predict war. (RELATED: Biden Administration And NATO Blame China For Cyberattacks, Fall Short Of Punishing Country)

“We’ve seen how cyberthreats including ransomware attacks increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption in the real world,” Biden said. “I think it’s more 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.”

Pres. Joe Biden's administration said China is involved in cyber attacks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pres. Joe Biden’s administration said China is involved in cyber attacks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The U.S. and NATO have accused China of directly funding cyber attacks against Microsoft earlier this year. While the Biden administration levied sanctions against Russia for its role in the SolarWinds and other cyber attacks, it has yet to do the same against China.

“The United States is deeply concerned that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has fostered an intelligence enterprise that includes contract hackers who also conduct unsanctioned cyber operations worldwide, including for their own personal profit,” the administration announced July 19. “As detailed in public charging documents unsealed in October 2018 and July and September 2020, hackers with a history of working for the PRC Ministry of State Security (MSS) have engaged in ransomware attacks, cyber enabled extortion, crypto-jacking, and rank theft from victims around the world, all for financial gain.”

Biden made a similar warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their in-person meeting in Geneva in June.

“I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden said at the time. “And secondly, we’ve set up a means of communication now on a regular basis to be able to communicate with one another when each of us thinks something is happening in another country that affects the home country. And so it went well. I’m optimistic.”