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Cyberespionage

US Reportedly Planning An “Unprecedented” Cyberattack Against Russia

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According to several news outlets citing current and former US government officials, the White House is in the planning stages of a massive, unprecedented cyberattack on the Russian government in retaliation for Russian meddling in the US presidential race. The goal of such an attack is to “harass and embarass” the Russian government. The CIA has been directed to gather options and deliver them to the White House, and according to former intelligence officers, agents have already gathered documents which will expose tactics employed by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

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Joe Biden told the NBC news program “Meet the Press” that the US is “sending a message” and that it will be at the leisure of the US government. Reportedly, the government will seek to weaken internal censorship powers in Russia, and also expose financial dealings of Vladimir Putin in order to compromise his credibility with the Russian people and potentially give his political foes leverage.

While not as destabilizing as, say, the invasion of Baghdad, such a move will leave an obvious American footprint on the Putin administration’s proverbial rear end. Biden explained that the President can’t just make an accusation and then fail to deliver some form of retribution, for it would weaken the “response capability” of US defense.

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Former CIA director Michael Morrell doubted the US would set the precedent of an actual, physical attack on Russian internal networks. He also said this operation is not the sort that should be carried out in secret, but rather in plain sight.

The Obama administration is reportedly also considering sanctions against Russia. Retired General Mike Hayden, who worked at both the NSA and the CIA, indicated earlier this year that the CIA is capable of running such an operation. He compared CIA computer operations to Marine Corps aviation and NSA computer operations to the United States Air Force – meaning that the NSA is clearly more capable, but the CIA is not inert. Retired Admiral James Stavridis said:

I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we’ll only see more and more of it in the future.

A Swan Song of Nuclear War?

Cyber networks are vital in today’s society. Following the 2014 Sony hacks, which were blamed on North Korea, much of North Korea’s limited internet access went down. Then, as now, President Obama had promised a “proportional response.”

While the US may be wont to offer cyber attack for cyber attack, Russian insiders have already told the news media that the election of Hillary Clinton in and of itself could lead to nuclear war. The conflict in Syria has been heightening tensions unlike anything between the two powers in decades. Barack Obama seems intent on getting a last strike in on Russia before he goes out of office, but could the ramifications of such a move be unpredictable, even nuclear?

Depending on the success of the planned attacks, the Russians could very well perceive a physical, weaponized response as likewise “proportional.” This is how many wars between large powers begin: an escalation of tensions followed by an escalation of actions.

Let’s hope these fears are just the irrational speculation of a hacked.com reporter and not a coming reality.

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Cyberespionage

Apple Watches Banned from UK Cabinet Meetings for Hacking Fears

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Cabinet ministers have voiced concerns that Apple Watches could be hacked by Russian spies, prompting the devices to be barred from meetings, according to a report from The Telegraph.

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Under the new leadership of Theresa May, U.K cabinet ministers have been barred from wearing the watch during meetings after concerns were raised that the gadgets could be employed as listening devices.

The Apple Watches join the list of banned items alongside mobile phones after these were barred for similar reasons.

According to a survey conducted by research firm IDC, Apple Watches account for seven percent of the market compared to FitBit, which is reported to account for 25.4 percent.

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A Threat from Russian Hackers

This latest news comes amid concerns of a possible threat from Russian hackers who have recently been in the news.

Russian hackers are alleged to have been able to obtain confidential emails from the Democratic National Congress during the U.S. elections despite Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denying this was the case. Surprisingly, congressional leaders are reported to have known about the hacking a year before it was officially announced.

Not only that, but at the recent Rio Olympics, which saw many Russian athletes banned from competing after it was revealed that there was a state-run doping program in the country, Russian hackers have retaliated.

A Russian cyberespionage group known as Fancy Bear recently accessed and leaked data from several high-profile Olympic athletes, by targeting a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database. This is the same agency that placed a recommendation to ban all Russian athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Unsurprisingly, with the threat of Russian hackers high, and with devices such as mobile phones and watches now being considered as vulnerable gadgets that can be hacked into, it seems as though banning them from important meetings is the only way that will remove any possible threat to state security.

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Cyberespionage

U.S. Officials Say Defenses Are up against Alleged Russian Hacking

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The U.S. has put measures into place that is reported to stop Russia from hacking into emails that could influence the upcoming presidential election, reports NBC News.

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Back in July, it was reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said that Russian state-sponsored hackers may have hacked the Democratic Party’s network and email system in an attempt to help Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

He said:

…experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump…that’s disturbing.

But could Russia really be looking into hacking the U.S. presidential elections?

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It seems that rather than take the chance of finding it out too late, U.S. officials have put defensive measures in place designed to block hacking paths that the Russians are alleged to have utilized.

It has been reported that emails were stolen from high-profile Democrats which were made public through WikiLeaks, DCleaks, and Guccifer 2.0.

However, while these defensive measures are being put into place, how long will it take before ways are found that can infiltrate the new measures?

According to Juan Zarate, a top counterterrorism official from 2005 to 2009, who spoke to NBC News, he said it wouldn’t take long before the Russians – both the state actors and their proxies – were able to find vulnerabilities.

He said:

This isn’t going to be the end of the story by any stretch.

WikiLeaks

When it comes to WikiLeaks they have not been shy releasing information pertaining to government and state documents.

Earlier this month, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, spoke via a video conference from the Ecuador embassy in London. He has been in asylum since August 2014.

He announced that the upcoming release of information WikiLeaks had access to could impact the U.S. presidential elections.

He said:

[They] are revealing, but also the government/state reactions to the releases are revealing also.

Even though leak sites and hackers are believed to have access to emails that have yet to be made public, U.S. officials are confident that its new defensive measures have stopped Russians from stealing further information, according to NBC News.

It remains to be seen whether or not this is in fact the case.

The U.S. Hits Back

Naturally, the U.S. doesn’t plan on taking these hacks lying down.

So-much-so, that it was reported earlier this month that the White House is planning a massive, unprecedented cyberattack on the Russian government. This is in retaliation for the alleged Russian hacking into the U.S. presidential elections.

This news doesn’t seem too surprising considering the fact that President Obama revealed that he had concerns over the government’s cybersecurity measures particularly after he admitted that the White House had been the target of hackers.

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Someone is Probing to Take Down the Internet, Warns Cryptographer

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The pillars that provide the basic infrastructure of the internet are being probed by an unknown entity, probing for that point where the foundation cracks and the internet breaks.

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