The Trump administration and U.S. Government are claiming Russia is responsible for yet another widespread global cyberattack. This time, officials believe Russian hackers working on behalf of the Kremlin are targeting “network infrastructure devices” such as routers, modems and ISP-based server equipment across the country.
• This week’s direct accusation is a marked shift from a government who has historically shied away from identifying attacking nations because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) verify the claims were true. This is likely representative of the fact that technology is advancing, making it easier for the government to confirm their allegations than ever before.
• Intelligence officials believe the hackers are attempting to use their intrusions to access and/or steal confidential information. This is nothing new online; phishing scams have focused on information access for years. But this time, the Kremlin’s alleged hackers are focusing on government and critical infrastructure targets.
• Rob Joyce, White House cybersecurity coordinator, sent out a warning that the government shouldn’t take the alleged attacks lightly. Even though the risk to everyday Americans is probably low, he indicated that, “It is a tremendous weapon in the hands of an adversary.”
• With relations between Russia and the United States more strained than ever, and the threat of war looming on the horizon, giving Russian hackers access to the wrong information could seriously jeopardize national safety. Such information could theoretically be used to interfere with national defense measures.
• Intelligence officials are also alleging that Kremlin-sponsored hackers are responsible for a long list of malware attacks used in intellectual property theft over the previous five years. This includes the 2017 NotPetya malware outbreak that took control of several Ukrainian banks and, terrifyingly, the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
• A report released to the public just last month also reveals another frightening forecast: Homeland Security believes Russian spies may be able to use the same technology to access U.S. and European electricity grids, including some of America’s biggest nuclear plants. It remains unclear exactly how that potential power may be used, but theoretically, hackers could trigger a meltdown or shut down power altogether.
• The Trump administration is currently evaluating a three-pronged approach to fixing the looming cybersecurity issue: figure out how to defend against it, release more sanctions, or take the offensive and attack Russian hackers back. All three approaches have at least some merit.