Sep 9, 2022 - Technology

Why Albania’s cyberattacks matter to the U.S.

Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging tech, gives remarks at White House
Photo: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A senior White House official sees this week's attribution of cyberattacks against the Albanian government to Iran as a much-needed step to establish cyber diplomacy norms.

Driving the news: Earlier this week, the U.S. government and Microsoft attributed a series of destructive cyberattacks against the Albanian government to Iranian state-sponsored hackers.

  • In mid-July, hackers stole data from Albanian government servers and deployed both ransomware and malware wipers against a number of government agencies and organizations, according to Microsoft.
  • Albania severed diplomatic relations with Iran on Wednesday, marking the first country to sever diplomatic relations because of a cyber conflict.
  • The White House's National Security Council promised further actions to "hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally."

What they're saying: Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, told Axios in a statement that this attribution is an essential part of the U.S. strategy to help establish cyber norms.

  • "You make rules stick through action — this has happened in the sea, air, and is happening in space," Neuberger said. "We need to bring that approach to cyberspace."
  • Neuberger added that many of the international cyber norms the United Nations adopts are based on pre-existing customs, so it's important for the U.S. to clearly demonstrate what is and isn't appropriate now.

Between the lines: Attributing a cyberattack is usually the ammunition countries need to pursue tougher diplomatic measures, including economic and trade sanctions.

The intrigue: The U.S. government has become quicker at publicly attributing state-backed cyberattacks in recent years.

What's next: The Senate still needs to vote on Nate Fick's nomination to run a new cyber diplomacy bureau at the State Department, which will expand on the White House's cyber norms work.

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