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Are US and Russia Already in a Cyber War?

This could be a second MAD situation only more unstable as both sides are continuously maneuvering for a better strike position

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Editor’s note: The report that US Cyber Command has been working on infecting computers in Russia with an eye on its electric grid has been met with a collective shrug, including publicly by the Russians, I wonder if that is warranted. A lot of that depends on how plausible it is to disrupt a power grid by hijacking computers, but ultimately that doesn’t even matter. As long as a department of the Pentagon has the authorization to do so they will do it just by bureaucratic inertia and in a fight to justify existence and expand their department.

In fact, since apparently the Pentagon only considers triggering their code an act of war, but its insertion is a mere act of “battlefield preparation”, why stop at power grids? Why not try to infect every computer in Russia? And if that is the type of thing Cyber Command is doing, it is only a matter of time until Russians start doing the same, or perhaps they already are. Again depending on how valuable they think such an effort could be. Then in a best case scenario we have a make-work program for militaries on both sides and in the worst case scenario a second MAD situation where each can wreak havoc on the other at the press of a button should it come to that.

In fact observing how the Empire works why should Cyber Command limit itself to Russia and China? Why not also try to infect as many computers in say Germany in case the country grows too independent of the US and at some future date tries declaring independence? Why not “prepare the battlefield” for that contingency as well?

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In fact malware can not be precisely targeted and the more systems it infects the easier it is for it to spread further so it also makes sense to also infect allies from the technical aspect as well.

The only thing that may work to the advantage of peace is if it turns out that due to non-military malware computers around the world are already decently protected, and military viruses are no more successful than the civilian versions we already know and cope with.

What is going on with Iran is certainly front-page material but there are two other stories confirming that brain-dead flesh-eating zombies have somehow gained control of the White House. The first comes from David Sanger of The New York Times, who reported last week that the United States had inserted malware into the Russian electrical grid to serve as both a warning and a possible response mechanism should the Kremlin continue with its cyberwarfare ways.

The astonishing thing about the story is the casual way it is presented because, after all, inserting malware into someone’s electrical grid might well be considered an act of war. The White House responded to the story with a tweet from the president claiming that “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…” though he did not state that the account was untrue. In fact, if it was actually treason, that would suggest that the news article was accurate in its description of what must be a Top Secret program. But then Trump or one of his advisors realized the omission and a second tweet soon followed: “…..ALSO, NOT TRUE!”

Assuming that Sanger did his job right and the story is actually correct, a number of aspects of it might be considered. First, interfering with a country’s electrical grid, upon which so many elements of infrastructure depend, is extremely reckless behavior, particularly when the activity has been leaked and exposed in a newspaper. Sanger explained the genesis of his story, revealing that he had been working at it for several months. He wrote:

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

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The Sanger story elaborates:

Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid. But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow. The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to ‘defend forward’ deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort to warn anybody ‘engaged in cyberoperations against us.’ ‘They don’t fear us,’ he told the Senate a year ago during his confirmation hearings.

If the Sanger tale is true, and it certainly does include a great deal of corroborative information, then the United States has already entered into a tit-for-tat situation with Russia targeting power grids, largely initiated to “make them fear us.” One might suggest that the two countries are already at war. That is in no one’s interest and the signals it sends could lead to a major escalation very rapidly. Interestingly, the article states that President Donald Trump does not know about the program even though it could potentially lead to World War 3. That the piece appeared at all also inevitably makes some readers wonder why Sanger has not been arrested for exposing national security information a la Julian Assange.

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