Federal authorities are also expected to lay out in further detail why it is so confident that Russia was behind the hacks and tried to influence the U.S. election. Sources said that groups believed to be involved in the Russian-backed operations will be named.
The expected announcement is not the culmination of the broad review of Russian hacking recently ordered by President Obama. That review is ongoing, and its findings won't be released until next month.
The Washington Post first reported that the new actions against Russia could be announced as early as this week.
Cyberretaliation against Russia for allegedly meddling in the U.S. election may be limited by fear among U.S. officials of Russia’s ability to fire back with devastating consequences.
According to Anup Ghosh, a former top government cyberexpert and the CEO of cybersecurity firm Invincea, American officials are aware that the Russians have already penetrated portions of U.S. critical infrastructure. He said the Russians “have the capability and the will” to pull the trigger on these cyberimplants; Russia used similar malware in cyberattacks that crippled huge swaths of the Ukrainian power grid during the Crimean crisis. Ghosh is a former top official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, an arm of the Defense Department that creates and adapts emerging technologies for military use.
He said that a significant U.S. cyberattack on Russia would carry “a huge risk” of retaliation and that he doubts the U.S. could “dominate that retaliation.” That is one of the unspoken reasons the Obama administration has been saying any retaliation against Russia will be “proportional,” he said.
He said he expects that the primary U.S. action will have to be similar to the approach used against China, with sanctions and diplomatic and law enforcement tools used to try to deter the behavior.
When asked about the U.S. response to the Russian cyberattacks, White House spokesman Josh Earnest would say only that the United States “will respond at a time and with a means of our choosing.”