by Julio Rivera
Online attacks can now cause damage equal to traditional military aggression.
According to a bombshell report from the New York Times, the United States has ramped up attacks against Russia’s power grid and other unnamed targets, signaling a new investment from Washington towards inserting American malware into high leverage segments of the Russian infrastructure.
The speculation is that these attacks are in response to heightened Russian cyber aggression and the noted political meddling that was a major theme of Robert Mueller’s almost two-year special counsel investigation of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
While the report did not get into specific tactics and targets aside from Russia’s power grid, it stated that unnamed officials claim that “US malware has the potential to cripple Russia’s electric infrastructure and is unprecedented in terms of its reach and aggressiveness.” The Times’ also claims that a senior intelligence official states that U.S. activity against Russia “has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” and that America is “doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”
President Trump was livid with what he customarily refers to as the ‘failing’ New York Times for disseminating the report. In his Twitter feed, Trump initially reacted to the report by saying, “Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…”
While Trump did not confirm or deny the Times’ report in his first attempt to address it, he would go on to seemingly deny the authenticity of the report a couple of days later when he tweeted, “The story in the @nytimes about the U.S. escalating attacks on Russia’s power grid is Fake News, and the Failing New York Times knows it. They should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phony. Times must be held fully accountable!”
But regardless of unconfirmed reports from anonymous sources and the subsequent denials, further disclosures and spin that's expected to come, the fact remains that the so-called ‘“cybersphere” is the future (and present) theater of warfare. Just last month, after members of the terrorist organization Hamas attempted to execute a cyberattack on Israeli targets, the IDF traced the attack to a building in the Gaza Strip and executed an air raid on the location.
In addition to that, last summer, Chinese government backed-hackers compromised the networks of a naval contractor working on a submarine and an underwater programs project for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center based in Newport, Rhode Island. This attack was merely one out of hundreds of known hacks executed by the Chinese against the U.S.
A leaked NSA document obtained by NBC News in 2015 revealed “more than 600 corporate, private or government “Victims of Chinese Cyber Espionage” that were attacked over a five-year period, with clusters in America’s industrial centers,” according to the report.
These attacks included hacks against critical infrastructure. Infrastructure in particular will continue to be targeted by countries at a militaristic disadvantage against countries like the United States. Infections including Triton malware have been deployed against the industrial control systems (ICS) that are critical to the safety and operation of many segments of American Infrastructure, including energy and utilities, causing irreparable damage.
In an effort to dissuade or seek retribution for these types of attacks against America, National Security Advisor John Bolton has said, “we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in,” and threatened that the U.S. “will impose costs on you until you get the point.”
The revelations brought to light by the New York Times may have been the first exposure to these new methods of engagement for many, but those paying close attention will recall the September 2018 speech by former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that included the line, "DHS was founded fifteen years ago to prevent another 9/11. I believe an attack of that magnitude is now more likely to reach us online than on an airplane."
The question is no longer if an online attack can cause damage equal to traditional military aggression, but what can the Trump administration do to prevent the next occurrence of one.
Julio Rivera is a NYC based writer, news personality, columnist and business consultant. His writing, which is concentrated on Politics, Cybersecurity and Sports has been published by websites including Newsmax, The Washington Times, Breitbart, The Toronto Sun, The Hill, The Washington Examiner, Western Journal, LifeZette, Townhall, American Thinker, Real Clear Markets, PJ Media and many others. He is a fixture on cable news talk shows, making regular appearances on American and International television.
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