Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 17 December 2020


Russian hack attack ‘a declaration of war’

US P\president-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Picture: AFP
US P\president-elect Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Picture: AFP
  • By David Charter
  • An hour ago 

Joe Biden is facing calls to reset the US relationship with Russia as the extent of a massive computer attack on the American government becomes apparent.

The months-long cyber-raid affected secrets in computer systems at the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce, and was said to have targeted US allies and corporations.

One senior Democrat senator called the cyber-hack “virtually a declaration of war” while experts said it might take months to understand what US secrets had been compromised.

The revelations came as an investigation by Bellingcat, a British journalism group, claimed a specialist hit squad from Russia’s FSB security service trailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for three years before poisoning him.

US Space Command on Thursday AEDT accused Russia of seeking to “weaponise space” after it tested a ground-based anti-satellite missile, warning that “threats to US and allied space systems are rapidly advancing”.

These incidents all serve as a reminder that Russia remains a prominent international security challenge that critics say has been neglected by the Trump administration. Donald Trump has downplayed the threat posed by the Kremlin and concentrated his counter-espionage efforts on China.

“It’s very important reminder that the Russian threat — not just China — will be a central challenge for the Biden administration and our allies for many years to come,” tweeted Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Moscow and a vocal Trump critic.

Dick Durbin, 76, the second most senior Democrat in the Senate, said the attack was “virtually a declaration of war” and accused the Trump administration of being “completely compromised”.

“Russia is relentlessly trying to invade America’s cyberspace and to compromise individual identities as well as critical and sensitive information,” he told CNN.

“We need an honest reset in terms of relations between the US and Russia — we can’t be buddies with Vladimir Putin and have him at the same time making this kind of cyberattack on America.

“This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the US and we should take that seriously.”

US investigators are trying to piece together what information was stolen in one of the most prolific hacks in the history of cyber-espionage that experts said displayed the hallmarks of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency.

The US has invested billions of dollars in a counter-espionage computer detection and prevention system called Einstein but it missed the hack.

This was apparently because it focuses on new uses of known malware and was unable to detect the new forms used.

Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator from Connecticut who received a classified briefing on the hack as a member of the armed service committee, on Wednesday tweeted: “Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyber­attack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared. Americans deserve to know what’s going on. Declassify what’s known & unknown.”

the times

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