Friday, December 30, 2016

Cyber-retaliating against Russia

The Obama Administration is finally taking some visible diplomatic sanctions against Russia for the cyber attacks for which it holds Russia responsible related to the US Presidential election.

U.S. retaliation meant to expose, dissuade increasing Russian aggression PBS Newshour 12/29/2016:

Obama Lays The Hammer Down On Russia The Young Turks 12/29/2016

Russia vows 'reprisals' over US sanctions Aljazeera 12/30/2016

Marcy Wheeler writes in Sanctioning GRU ... and FSB Emptywheel 12/29/2016:

Effectively, the White House sanctioned two Russian intelligence agencies (GRU — Main Intelligence, and FSB –Federal Security Service), top leaders from one of them, and two named hackers.

In addition to sanctioning GRU, the White House also sanctioned FSB. I find that interesting because (as I laid out here), GRU has always been blamed for the theft of the DNC and John Podesta documents that got leaked to WikiLeaks. While FSB also hacked the DNC, there’s no public indication that it did anything aside from collect information — the kind of hacking the NSA and CIA do all the time (and have done during other countries’ elections). Indeed, as the original Crowdstrike report described, FSB and GRU weren’t coordinating while snooping around the DNC server.
Here are some recent reports on the options of the United States for cyber attacks against Russia. And on some of the associated risks.

Nafeesa Syeed, Obama Options on Russian Hacks Range From Covert to Military Bloomberg Markets 11/27/2016:

"The only publicly declared offensive cyber operation that the United States is conducting is against" Islamic State, though few details of that are known, according to Michael Sulmeyer, director of the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center and a former senior cyber policy adviser at the Defense Department. "I suspect that’s why the administration, if they’re going to choose to go with an offensive cyber response, they’re probably going to be fairly quiet about it," Sulmeyer said.

Case in point: North Korea. The isolated regime’s internet was disrupted for about 10 hours on Dec. 21 and 22, 2014, days after the Obama administration accused Kim Jong Un’s government of hacking Sony’s computer systems. Although the U.S. didn’t claim responsibility, the administration had vowed to retaliate against North Korea.
Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates who was on the National Security Council staff during the Cheney-Bush Administration, Russian Hacking: Obama’s Actions, Trump’s Options
The National Interest 12/30/2016:

... the expulsion of 35 intelligence officers under cover as diplomats at Russian missions in Washington and San Francisco and the closing of two Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York are not a response to hacking, nor are they intended solely as retaliation for Russian harassment of our diplomats in Russia, as the White House stated. More importantly, they are meant to disrupt Russian intelligence operations that go far beyond cyber intrusions. In addition, the release of a Joint Analysis Report on Russian cyber intrusion techniques will have an impact well beyond our borders. The Administration wants it to be studied attentively in Europe and elsewhere. Finally, the Administration has promised covert operations of its timing and choosing, which will likely be designed to send messages about more than just our opposition to Moscow’s hacking activities. Russia’s intelligence services will, of course, eventually recover from this setback, but at a cost to their current operations. ...

Trump will find it hard to undo Obama’s actions after January 20, if he is so inclined. Rescinding measures aimed at Russian intelligence operations in the United States is a non-starter domestically. Lifting personal sanctions against high-ranking GRU officers is not in the cards. The release of the Joint Analysis Report will continue to erode Russia’s capabilities as more and more entities here and abroad take the necessary steps to tighten their cybersecurity. [my emphasis]

Obama Wants To Punish Russia The Young Turks 12/28/2016:

Marcy Wheeler reminds us again in The Conspiracy Theory in YouGov's Conspiracy Theory Poll Emptywheel 12/29/2016 that's it's worth paying close attention to the claims being made about Russian hacking and who is making them.

Robert Parry, Escalating the Risky Fight with Russia Consortium News 12/28/2016:

After several years of intensifying anti-Russian propaganda, the United States reportedly is ready to escalate the New Cold War with Russia by inflicting new punishments in retaliation for the still-unproven allegation that President Vladimir Putin authorized the hacking of Democratic emails and then released them to the American people via WikiLeaks.
Jonathan Marshall, Summing Up Russia’s Real Nuclear Fears Consortium News 12/29/2016:

The conflicts between Washington and Moscow keep on growing: Ukraine and Syria, rival war games, “hybrid” wars and “cyber-wars.” Talk of a new Cold War doesn’t do justice to the stakes.

“My bottom line is that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War,” declares former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry.
Also relevant for when commentators or reporters talk about Russia "hacking" the Presidential eleciton: Alex Hern, US recounts find no evidence of hacking in Trump win but reveal vulnerabilities Guardian 12/28/2016.

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