Is the US gearing up to enter into a Cyber War with Russia? After the latest attacks on US political institutions, allegedly originating from Russia, the US could react with their own large-scale cyber attack.
Leadership in Moscow might be in for a rude awakening.
The CIA was instructed to submit to the White House several options for clandestine cyber attacks that could expose the Kremlin. Although no concrete strategies were proposed in the report, the CIA has already made initial preparations and selected potential targets.
- “We’re sending a message,” Biden said. “We have the capacity to do it. It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact”.
Although according to two former CIA officers who worked on Russia, there is a long history of the White House instructing the CIA to come up with options to conduct covert action against Russia, only to abandon the ideas later. However, Biden went on to say that no matter how futile Russia’s efforts are in either interfering with the US election, or on anything else, the would be responded to like for like.
- “Their capacity to fundamentally alter the election is not what people think,” Biden said. “And I tell you what, to the extent that they do we will be proportional in what we do.”
It’s not clear whether the American public is going to be made aware or be alerted to an attack pending, but Biden simply said, “Hope not”.
The main fear is that this hacking could interfere with the November vote.
James Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the supreme allied commander at NATO said the CIA should “embarrass” the Kremlin by exposing financial dealings of Putin and his cronies.
- “It’s well known that there’s great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs,” Stavridis said. “It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we’ve seen” in the recent hacks into US political figures and committees.
- Although it could be argued that Putin is almost beyond embarrassment at this point.
- In earlier days, the CIA was behind efforts to use the Internet to put pressure on Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 1999, and to put pressure Iraqi leadership in 2003 to split off from Saddam Hussein.
Public relations strained
Last week, the US publicly blamed Russia for the cyber attacks against the Democratic Party, releasing a joint statement from the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security.
Sean Kanuck, former senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analysing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost. “If you publicly accuse someone,” he said, “and don’t follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability,” he said.
All this cyber conflict is taking place while the two superpowers are struggling to work together effectively against ISIS in Syria. Officials have said that the ultimate authority on whether a cyber attack would be launched rests with President Obama.
“I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we’ll only see more and more of it in the future,” Stavridis said. This new angle of conflict surely cannot be good for either side, to say the least.