The Pentagon and members of the US intelligence community have not-so-secretly agreed on a rough plan for an offensive cyberattack against Russia in the event the Kremlin interferes with the 2018 midterm elections on November 6, according to Yahoo! News, citing “current and former senior US officials” familiar with the plan.
In preparation for its potential use, U.S. military hackers have been given the go-ahead to gain access to Russian cyber systems that they feel is needed to let the plan unfold quickly, the officials said.
The effort constitutes one of the first major cyber battle plans organized under a new government policy enabling potential offensive operations to proceed more quickly once the parameters have been worked out in advance and agreed among key agencies. –Yahoo!
So far, national security officials have reported limited efforts by Russians to compromise political organizations and campaigns. There is concern, however, that “Moscow might unleash more aggressive interference” right before midterm voting begins, during voting, or while the votes are being counted, according to the report.
The plan is the first hacking offensive to be organized since President Trump signed an August Executive Order streamlining the approval process for such operations – effectively giving the Department of Defense additional prerogatives to prepare cyber-strikes. It also “preemptively addresses traditional intelligence community concerns that cyberattacks will compromise ongoing or future intelligence-gathering by exposing U.S. data-collection operations,” reports Yahoo!.
While the officials refused to provide specific retaliatory actions, administration officials said on an October 31 call with reporters that it would take more than “malign influence … trying to sway peoples’ opinion or the way people might vote,” adding “This is something that has happened since the dawn of the republic.”
Social media influence operations, widely used by Russia in 2016 and again over the past two years, were the focus of an indictment by the Justice Department of Russian national Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova unveiled Oct. 19, in which she was charged with conspiring with others against the United States.
The senior official clarified that it would be direct interference — efforts to tamper with voting registration and recording votes — that would bring “swift and severe action.” The reason, the official said, is “that fundamentally wrecks the natural process that we have established in this country.” That official didn’t describe what the U.S. action would be. –Yahoo!
Russia was accused by the Department of Homeland Security of attempting to break into election systems of at least 21 states during the 2016 election, however there was no evidence of any alterations – while five of the 21 states told ABC News that they were never attacked.
As we reported last September when word that the 21 states were being targeted, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released a statement in response to the DHS, the whole thing was just a bunch of “fake news.” Padilla noted that after requesting additional information from DHS on the “hacks” it quickly became clear that their “conclusions were wrong” and that “California’s elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”
That said, Putin is on watch.