Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Digital Espionage: Moscow vs Washington

"[A Russian infiltration operation in the United States] is something we're looking very closely at."
"[While American intelligence does not claim] definite proof [of tampering in the election process] ...even the hint of something impacting the security of our election system would be of significant concern."
Senior intelligence official, Washington

"Free and legitimate elections are non-negotiable. It’s clear that Russia thinks the reward outweighs any consequences."
"That calculation must be changed. . . . This is going to take a cross-domain response — diplomatic, political and economic — that turns the screws on Putin and his cronies."
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)

"[Accusations against Russia by U.S. officials and politicians represent an attempt to] distract the [American] public’s attention."
"It doesn’t really matter who hacked this data from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign headquarters. The important thing is the content was given to the public."
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin

A view through a construction fence shows the Kremlin towers and St. Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

It seems the bias is there; reflecting the impression that the reprehensibly boorish Donald Trump, Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency expressing his admiration for the Russian President, and avowing his intention to reset relations between the two countries, appears to have inspired Mr. Putin to reflect that should Trump be elected, his relationship with Washington would be immensely improved. With Hillary Clinton, not so much.

The flawed candidate that she represents as someone who is untrustworthy in the minds of the American public, yet between that proverbial rock and a hard place, comparing the venal corruption of Trump with the venal corruption of Clinton, still gives her an edge.

Making it an enticing prospect for Russia to intervene with an effort to reveal even more damaging information about Mrs. Clinton's poor judgement and dreadful choices with respect to security and her countless manipulations of the truth, let alone her unscrupulous machinations to benefit herself and her husband's charity financially to further discredit her as a viable candidate.

Leading to the hack by the Russian government of the Democratic National Committee and the disclosures with the release of 20,000 emails by WikiLeaks.

"We've seen an unprecedented intrusion and an attempt to influence or disrupt our political process", declared Representative Adam B. Schiff, ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee. Russia has blandly denied any involvement in the cyber-intrusions carried out in the United States, even while the FBI issued warnings to urge state election officials to be wary of election systems intrusions, requiring additional measures to upgrade security.

It's not as though they're just blind-guessing that Russia is behind the cyber-espionage, after all. Arizona and Illinois and the Democratic and Republican parties have been victimized by attempted and successful cyber attacks, all of which are being investigated by FBI agents experienced in Russian government hacking. The covert Russian operation has been tracked to government sources by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Nothing, of course, is exempt from being probed by outside forces skilled in this kind of espionage. And nor can the United States claim itself to be innocent of very similar cyber-security probes of other nations' systems, friendly or not. It's even possible that Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency along with the Central Intelligence Agency could learn something by studying Russian methodology.

Internet use for the dissemination of propaganda appears to have been pioneered by Russia, and it has become a global movement capable of influencing people and political events. Since the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia for its influence and assistance to Russian-speaking Ukrainian rebels and the annexation of Crimea, cyber-attacks have been on the increase. Russia began with targeting the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine, to destabilize them. It has simply moved on to include the United States.

Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, a research organization based in Riga, Latvia, stated that "Our studies show it is very likely that [the influence] operations are centrally run"; that a coordinated effort "involving [groups using] Twitter and Facebook and networks of bots to amplify their message" exists. "The main themes seem to be orchestrated rather high up in the hierarchy of the Russian state, and then there are individual endeavors by people to exploit specific themes."

According to Sarts, the Russian propaganda agenda has been "successful in exploiting the vulnerabilities within societies".  In 2014, just before a critical post-revolution presidential vote in Ukraine, a digital assault came close to destroying Ukraine's Central Election Commission’s website. CyberBerkut hackers claimed responsibility but Kiev authorities placed the blame squarely on Moscow.

The Russians made use of a tried-and-true "denial of service" technique, to flood the commission’s Web server with a high volume of requests, meant to disable the network.

They've had plenty of practice to excel, and they have succeeded in this bold new direction of international intrigue and skulduggery.

Labels: , , ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Follow @rheytah Tweet