Open thread for night owls: Russian hacking operations are increasingly ‘audacious, and reckless’

From propaganda campaigns against foreign political opponents to targeting the Ukrainian electrical grid, state-sponsored Russian hacking is notable less for its technical prowess (to this day, most attacks begin as that most low-tech of all hacking efforts, convincing unwary targets to open malware-laden links or emails) but for the boldness of the efforts. Sheera Fenkel writes on how Russian operations are increasingly “testing the limits of what other countries will tolerate as acts of war”.

Russia’s involvement in the most brazen attack on the US, the email breach of senior Democratic Party members, resulted in only minor sanctions on Russian officials and the expelling of 35 Russian diplomats (though the US claims that they are retaliating in other, unseen ways). “Look, we’re moving into a new era here where a number of countries have significant capacities,” Barack Obama, then president, said during a September 2016 appearance at the annual G20 summit in China, just after he had ordered US intelligence agencies to review foreign interference in the US election. Obama added that he had been in discussions with China, as well as Russia, on creating rules for cyberwarfare. “Our goal is not to suddenly, in the cyber arena, duplicate a cycle of escalation that we saw when it comes to other arms races in the past.”

One US intelligence officer currently involved in cyber ops said, “It’s not that the Russians are doing something others can’t do. It’s not as though, say, the US wouldn’t have the technical skill level to carry out those types of attacks. It’s that Russian hackers are willing to go there, to experiment and carry out attacks that other countries would back away from,” said the officer, who asked not to be quoted by name due to the sensitivity of the subject. “It’s audacious, and reckless. They are testing things out in the field and refining them, and a lot of it is very, very messy and some is very smart.”

Now, that Bush has finally gotten his war going, he’s finally talking about the costs of war in treasure and lives. We’ve already talked about the $90 billion for one month of hostilities. Now, Ari talks about loss of life:

“Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life,” spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
How could they be prepared? The administration and its allies have been saying all along that this would be easy. A matter of days. Mass defections. Smart bombs. Shock and awe.

The president never once said: “We may have to sacrifice the youth of our nation, but their sacrifice won’t be in vain because yadda yadda yadda”. This was always a video game war where the losers hit “reset” and rise to play again. […]

Meanwhile, the Pentagon told reporters about a Delta Force team tasked with hunting down and killing Saddam. If these guys are so effective, why not use them to hunt down and kill Osama? That aside, isn’t there something rather unseemly about discussing assassination plans?

These guys have given up all pretenses of being a civil people. Bloodlust runs rampant. It’s the law of the playground, might makes right.


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