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The U.S. is still frighteningly vulnerable to deadly Russian cyberattacks

America's old and weak infrastructure isn't just a matter of politics. A yearslong failure to update America's infrastructure has put us all in grave danger.


As several world leaders, including President Joe Biden, previously promised, sanctions have been levied against Russia for the country’s recent military aggression against Ukraine

It’s possible the sanctions won’t have an impact on the Russian government in the immediate term, given that President Vladimir Putin has spent years trying to financially fortify the Kremlin against financial repercussions over his attempts to re-create the Soviet Union. 

America’s poor infrastructure is a potentially deadly vulnerability that we’ve foolishly allowed as a country.

But the fact that sanctions may not work against Russia doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t have an impact on the United States. A 2020 report from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned of potential cyberattacks resulting from U.S. policies like sanctions, and the possibilities are pretty scary. 

“Civilian infrastructure makes attractive targets for foreign powers attempting to do harm to US interests or retaliate for perceived US aggression,” the report stated.

That explains why the Biden administration has warned about the potential for crippling cyberattacks over the past year and why those warnings have gotten more frank as the U.S. has mounted a response to Russian aggression in recent days. During a White House news briefing, CISA Director Jen Easterly said, “We all need to be ready, or as I like to say, shields up.”

Photo Illustration: A map of the United States lights up a dark laptop screen
Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

Look, I know infrastructure discussions may not be the most exciting to broach, but now — as we’re seemingly on the precipice of World War III — is perhaps the best time to demonstrate how America’s poor infrastructure is a potentially deadly vulnerability that we’ve foolishly allowed as a country. 

We’ve already seen the harm that cyberattacks on American infrastructure can do. 

Last year, a hacker tapped into the water supply for the city of Oldsmar, Florida, and tried to poison it by upping the levels of sodium hydroxide. Months later, suspected Russian hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline, the one of the largest pipelines for transporting refined oil in the United States. And I’ve yet to mention one of America’s most at-risk utilities — the internet — which we know is vulnerable to nefarious actors, including foreign adversaries like Russia, misusing it to spread misinformation on social networks

The White House has said $2 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden signed into law last year will go toward strengthening U.S. infrastructure against cyberattacks. But experts say in addition to the money, the U.S. needs a comprehensive, national plan to combat these attacks

Both the infrastructure package and Biden’s separate Build Back Better spending proposal allocate funds and establish programs to protect U.S. infrastructure from cyberattacks foreign and domestic. 

Ironically, the bills have been derided by many conservatives as “socialist” spending measures when, in reality, they’re clearly essential to America’s defense against creeping authoritarianism.