Clear away the hot air and deception, and recent disclosures about Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election offer a sobering glimpse of cyberconflict today.
While President Vladimir Putin of Russia denies his government engaged in it, and President Donald Trump calls it a “witch hunt,” the extraordinarily detailed indictment brought by special counsel Robert Mueller III shows the attacks on the election were carried out by uniformed military officers in a unit with a Moscow address.
This is not amateur hour.
Mueller’s charges against 12 officers of the Russian military intelligence organization, the GRU, take the case down to street level, identifying the two units - No. 26165, located at 20 Komsomolsky Prospekt, Moscow, and No. 74455, located at 22 Kirova St., in Khimki, outside of Moscow - that carried out the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The indictment shows a dozen officers working to penetrate and disrupt the Democrats by emptying out their emails and computer data and then leaking it.
They appeared to use relatively well-known methods such as spear-phishing to steal credentials, anonymous servers to spirit away the dataand cryptocurrency to hide the money trail.
At the end of each operation, it was Putin’s officers who reaped the harvest.
For years there has been much speculation that Russia’s spy services were hiring hackers or criminal elements to do their dirty work, and they probably are.
China, too, is a major state actor in cyberconflict; the U.S. intelligence agencies report that Beijing continues to steal intellectual property from U.S. companies despite a 2015 agreement intended to curb the practice.
Despite these urgent threats, there is scant sign of an effective U.S. government response.