The Biden administration has announced plans to retaliate against Russia for the SolarWinds breach that compromised dozens of U.S. companies. The move will include sanctions, strengthening network defense and covert actions that will remain unspecified publicly, the New York Times reports.

These actions are in response to the December breach of the SolarWinds company, an attack that compromised over 100 U.S. businesses and nine government agencies. The vulnerability went unnoticed for over a year, and officials are still working to hold companies to account and determine the best path forward, according to Reuters.

While the Biden administration has shown growing concern about the U.S. capacity to resist cyberattacks, the practical steps they can take in retaliation are limited. 

Economic sanctions are the most straightforward, but the U.S. has already levied an array of sanctions against the Russian government for previous offenses, to little effect. A new suite of sanctions was just unveiled in response to the jailing of Putin critic Alexei Navalny, prompting warnings of retaliation from the Kremlin.

"We will continue to systematically and resolutely defend our national interests and rebuff aggression," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seen speaking at the State Department, has voiced alarm to Russia over the treatment of opposition activist Alexei Navalny US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, seen speaking at the State Department, has voiced alarm to Russia over the treatment of opposition activist Alexei Navalny Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB

The Biden administration will also sign an executive order accelerating network defense improvements. 

The just leaves actions that aren’t expected to be made public. An official told the Times that these moves would be noticed by Russian officials and intelligence agencies, but would not be publicized when they occur sometime in the next three weeks.

The announcement of this retaliation comes just days after the discovery of another Microsoft breach compromising 20,000 U.S. organizations, allegedly perpetrated by China, CNBC noted. Microsoft initially said the vulnerability in client-hosted Outlook programs was small-scale and targeted, but the scale of the attack has since grown dramatically.

“We’re concerned that there are a large number of victims,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.