Is this an epic cyber attack or spy operation?

U.S. officials suspect what could be a Russian spy agency The most successful web navigation History of US government and corporate entities.

It is described as an epic hack. But is it an attack?

This is a much more complex question than can be imagined, and how it is answered will indicate how the incoming Biden administration responds.

According to Microsoft President Brad Smith, the formula is clear: “This latest cyber attack is an attack on the United States and other important institutions, including its government and security agencies.” In a blog post on Thursday, After it came out, his own company was violated by US officials claiming that the Russian SVR was the equivalent of the CIA.

But for current and former U.S. officials, this is not the right way to look at it. They claim that by hacking dozens of companies and government agencies, hackers have unleashed a shocking and tragic record of intelligence. But they point out that this is cyber espionage that the US National Security Agency seeks on a regular basis against Russia, China and any foreign adversaries.

If intruders destroy data, or use their access to cause damage in the world, it could be an attack by shutting down power grids. But entering into unclassified government and corporate networks? Do you read other people’s emails? It’s spy.

“I do not think it’s a cyber attack under anyone’s definition working in the field,” said Gary Brown, a former Pentagon Internet professor and professor of cyber law at the National Defense University.

“This is really a very successful espionage operation. This is something we want to carry out. It’s an awakening call – we should be fine. The Russians are better than we know.”

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Jamil Jaffer, a former senior adviser to the House Intelligence Agency and vice chairman of Ironnet Security, said: “We have no evidence that any information has been deleted, deleted, manipulated or altered. ”

For example, it is dangerous but not surprising that the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Administration is one of the violating agencies – the company claims that its unclassified business networks have been hacked.

“If we can access the nuclear programs and information of Russia or China, we will,” he said.

A senior congressional official who oversees intelligence said U.S. officials should be careful about how they describe the incident. This is in stark contrast to what Sony Pictures allegedly did in 2014 by hacking its networks, destroying data and computers and creating public private emails.

This is different from US and Israeli action Called Stuxnet, Which used cyber-attacks to damage Iranian nuclear facilities a decade ago. It is clearly a cyber attack.

Recent suspected Russian Internet hacking is similar to hacking China’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), gaining Chinese access Millions of key employee records.

After that incident, the then Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Said: “You should salute the Chinese for what they have done. I do not think we will hesitate for a minute if we have the opportunity to do so.”

“As with what happened with Sony, if someone starts breaking into your computers and destroying stuff, it’s an attack,” the official said.

“But when it comes to OPM, when hackers come in and reveal the return of data, it’s not welcome, it’s not necessarily an attack on the same ballpark. What shall we reap? I have sown. “

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He added: “We are now holding hands with what others are doing to us without giving the public a great view of what we are doing to others.”

In fact, US officials are careful with their language. Top senators from the Armed Services Committee, Republican James Inhof and Democrat Jack Reid released a joint statement saying it was a “significant, sophisticated cyber intrusion” – not an attack.

Similarly, Democrat Mark Warner of the Senate Intelligence Committee called it a “catastrophic breach”, “bad attempt” and intrusion.

“International law relating to cyber activities is not well developed, but if it is to be considered an attack, it must involve the use of force or force,” said James Lewis, a former foreign affairs official with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It is not yet clear what the intruders did with nine months of unrestricted access to government and corporate networks. A Western intelligence official would not be named to discuss an important matter as they may have done things that are considered more than simple intelligence.

If they take the data, it’s one thing, but if they plant “cyber bombs” that can cause physical destruction if they explode, it will at least allow for an attack, he said.

He and others noted that this would not be much different than what the Russians had already done by deploying cyber weapons in certain parts of the U.S. power grid or by stationing nuclear-armed submarines off the coast of the United States.

The Russian SVR, which is believed to have carried out the hacks, has no history of manipulating or destroying data – a congressional official said.

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But even if it was only a Russian spy victory, experts say the Russians did not feel they were paying a price for such a shameful move. President Trump has not said anything on the matter, but President-elect Joe Biden has promised to respond.

In doing so, he used the correct language that some intelligence officials had gone so far as to raise expectations of a stronger response than he was ultimately prepared to offer.

“A good security is not enough; we must prevent our enemies from carrying out significant cyber attacks in the first place,” Biden said in a statement. “I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber attacks on our nation.”

Eden Hayes

"Wannabe gamer. Subtly charming beer buff. General pop culture trailblazer. Incurable thinker. Certified analyst."

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