The alleged interference of Russian state-sponsored hackers into the 2016 Presidential election is triggering the response of the US.
For the first time, a member of the US Presidential Staff has treated another country of a cyber attack is response to the hacking campaigns that are targeting across the months the US politicians.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security have issued a joint security statement to accuse the Russian government of a series of intrusions into the networks of US organizations and state election boards involved in the Presidential Election.
“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process” reads the statement.
“We will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing,” a senior administration official told AFP.
“The public should not assume that they will necessarily know what actions have been taken or what actions we will take.”
Two weeks ago, the US Vice President Joe Biden during an interview with NBC explained that “message” would be sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the alleged hacking.
It is a historical declaration, for the first time in a diplomatic context, a member of a government invoke a cyber attack as a deterrent measure.
“Vice President Joe Biden told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that “we’re sending a message” to Putin and that “it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.” reported the NBCnews.
“When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, “Hope not.“”
According to NBC, the CIA was preparing a retaliatory cyber attack “designed to harass and ’embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership.”
While cyber security experts, politicians, and military officials are questioning about a proportional response to the alleged Russian interference, the US cyber army has already penetrated Russian electric grid, telecommunications networks and also the Russia’s command systems.
The news was confirmed by a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents obtained by the NBC News
“U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia’s electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin’s command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News.” reported the NBC News.
Russia, China, US, Germany and almost any other country are improving their cyber capabilities. In many cases, security experts have introduced the concept of militarization of the cyberspace indicating the effort spent by governments to establish a form of dominance by using malware and hacking tools against critical infrastructure and computer systems of foreign governments.
The Stuxnet cyber weapon has demonstrated the efficiency of digital weaponry, alone or as an adjunct to conventional attacks.
Recently Russian hackers were accused of being responsible for a large number of espionage campaigns against governments and private companies worldwide.
Of course, the US cyber army operated in the same way for the dominance in the cyberspace, documents Leaked by Snowden and examined by Der Spiegel magazine reveals that the NSA is now preparing for future dominance in cyberspace.
The Equation Group is probably one of the maximum expression of the NSA cyber capabilities. The NSA-linked group used for its campaigns a large number of zero-day exploits and sophisticated hacking tools.
Now the documents reviewed by the NBC News confirm that significant effort spent by the US Government against Russia.
The US intelligence doesn’t believe the Russian hackers will target national critical infrastructure instead it fears Russia could disrupt the presidential election by releasing fake documents or spreading misinformation with PSYops campaigns.
The NBC News confirmed the US Government is establishing a specific response team to prevent and repel any attack on the presidential election. Experts say it is an unprecedented effort, the US cyber army is ready to use its cyber weapons against any enemy that will try to interfere with the political appointment.
“U.S. military officials often say in general terms that the U.S. possesses the world’s most advanced cyber capabilities, but they will not discuss details of highly classified cyber weapons.” wrote the NBC News.
“James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that U.S. hacks into the computer infrastructure of adversary nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — something he says he presumes has gone on for years — is akin to the kind of military scouting that is as old as human conflict.”
“This is just the cyber version of that,” he said.
In 2014, the NSA director Adm. Mike Rogers told Congress that U.S. adversaries are performing electronic “reconnaissance” on a regular basis.
“All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic,” he said at the time.
On the other end, the NSA regularly penetrates foreign networks to gather intelligence.
“You’d gain access to a network, you’d establish your presence on the network and then you’re poised to do what you would like to do with the network,” Gary Brown, a retired colonel and former legal adviser to U.S. Cyber Command, told NBC News. “Most of the time you might use that to collect information, but that same access could be used for more aggressive activities too.”
The senior US intelligence official confirmed that the U.S. could take action to shut down some Russian systems in case of Russian cyber attacks. He referred a practice called by security experts active defense or hack back.
“I think there’s three things we should do if we see a significant cyber-attack,” he said. “The first obviously is defending against it. The second is reveal: We should be publicizing what has happened so that any of this kind of cyber trickery can be unmasked. And thirdly, we should respond. Our response should be proportional.” Retired Adm. James Stavridis told NBC News.
Brown highlighted the lack of an exhaustive and shared doctrine around cyber warfare.
“Cyber war is undefined,” Brown added. “There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those.”
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(Security Affairs – Presidential Election, Active Defense)