US Gov't Officially Accuses Russia Of Hacking… Question Is What Happens Next

from the this-is-unlikely-to-end-well dept

It’s been quite a crazy Friday, and in the midst of it all, the US government finally came out with an official accusation that Russia is behind various hack attacks concerning the US election:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow?the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

The same report says that they don’t (yet) have enough information to also accuse Russia of the recent hacks on state election computers:

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.

But they also stick with the party line that actually hacking the election would be difficult:

The USIC and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assess that it would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion. This assessment is based on the decentralized nature of our election system in this country and the number of protections state and local election officials have in place. States ensure that voting machines are not connected to the Internet, and there are numerous checks and balances as well as extensive oversight at multiple levels built into our election process.

Of course, people have been pointing the finger at Russia over these hacks for a while, and according to various reports there’s been widespread debate within the Obama administration about making a public accusation. There are two main issues here:

  1. Attribution for computer attacks is really really difficult. No one knows for sure, and there are ways to spoof where attacks come from. There does appear to be quite a lot of evidence pointing back at Russia for these hacks, so it does seem like a safe bet. But that doesn’t mean it’s definitely them. It would be nice if people gave actual confidence values when they make statements like these, but no one in politics ever does that these days.
  2. The much bigger question is what comes next. There are political benefits and costs to naming Russia. But the big thing here is that by naming Russia, it gives the US government more leeway to do something in response. And, as we warned many months ago, this is a horrifically bad idea. It will only escalate matters and make things worse overall.

As I noted just the other day, cybersecurity should be a defensive game. Going offensive is really, really dangerous, because things will get worse, and we really don’t know what the capabilities of the other side(s) truly are. Focus on protecting critical infrastructure, not on some meaingless symbolic strike back.

But, of course, in this day and age, people seem to feel that every action requires some sort of reaction, and in a computer security realm, that’s just stupid. But it seems to be where we’re inevitably heading. The cybersecurity firms will get wonderfully rich off of this. But almost everyone will be less safe as a result.

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Comments on “US Gov't Officially Accuses Russia Of Hacking… Question Is What Happens Next”

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73 Comments
Andy says:

Re: Pot calling kettle black

Exactly what i was thinking , America is guilty as hell for attacking other countries and using hacking as a major tool in there box of tricks. Now that they are getting the same treatment that they are guilty of they cry foul.

American politicians are just as guilty of crimes as Russia is and both deserve each other, the problem is that if they have a war they will end up using nukes and destroying us all.

LAquaker says:

Re: If it's important here...

Ten years ago a few Pre-Election Observers(a thing) from the Los Angeles Green Party were invited to spend an hour touring of the vote counting process at the County Recorder’s Building in Norwalk, a place with more chads then all of Florida!
Twelve ‘Tally Machines’ each had a ‘donated’ Dell computer in parallel, each using the same keyboard and mouse as the Secretary Of State ‘certified’ tally machine it sat under.
A small closed room had a 6foot tall 19″ rack donated by Cisco running, but the bureaucrats promised to turn off the Cisco machine on election day.
The mother tally machine had Cat5 cables running into the t-bar ceiling tiles overhead, but the bureaucrats swore the boards they were jacked into were not actual ‘LAN’ modems, but something elce. Two of the four walls of the 4,000sqft room were second-floor external glass walls.

Peter (profile) says:

Such activity is not new to [Washington]—the [Americans] have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia [- in fact, across the entire world], for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only [America]’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Andy says:

Re: Re:

Exactly, if Hillary does not win expect Obama to get the FBI and NSA and any other government alphabet groups to report that the elections were corrupted by Russia. and calling for new elections within the next 12 months.

There are so many very angry Americans right now that hate the corrupt political system that i believe Trump could win because of protest votes. Yes it will be a tragedy for America but Hillary is not much better and in some ways much worse.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

No hack possible.

Listen my fellow Americans, and residents, and foreigners here either legally or overstayed uour visit because the US is a great place to live. The voting machines can not be hacked due to separate unique hard coded admin passwords being separate for each state. For instance in Alaska the admin rights password is Alaska123, which will not work in Alabama where that password is Alabama123. It is a full proof, hack proof password.

So rest assured the system is safe

Anonymous Coward says:

Just what we need. A pissing match between the US government’s script kiddies and the Russian script kiddies. This time both groups are backed by governments armed with nuclear weapons.

Someone needs to point out that no matter who wins the pissing contest, at the end of the day, you still have to live with a lot of piss all over the darpet.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Fair treatment

Well when the US hacked numerous computers and launched cyber weapons nobody counter attacked us. So we should offer the same courtesy as the rest of the world and focus on defense rather than attack attack attack mentality. Otherwise someone may just get upset enough to push some buttons and shut down our critical infrastructure. Which would suck cause I like running water and power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fair treatment

Hillary gave a speech to the Veterans a while back (no one showed up so it didn’t get much press) but she stated that as POTUS she would respond to cyberhacks with a military response.

After decades of the US hacking the planet she just opened up the door for any country to respond to our cyber aggression with a show of force. I’ve already retrofitted one of my wells with an old school hand pump and will be starting a food plot in the spring. Dark days ahead if she gets elected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fair treatment

“push some buttons and shut down our critical infrastructure”

Three mile island, Chernobyl and Fukashima were not caused by natural disasters or hackers. They were caused by failures in management. Typically as a result of executives cutting corners, and relying on “nerd harder” as a means of making their bonus.

Who needs state actors when you have domestic malevolent ignorance?

The unfortunate truth is that if the engineer at Fukashima who said “gee whiz, it doesn’t matter how many generators you have if they are ALL UNDER FUCKING WATER”, had been taken seriously lives could have been saved. And you know he was there. He’s always there. That is why he gets hired.

Once you’ve been around the block, you’ve seen shit like this happen. I cringe every time. Typically some frat boy middle manager laughing at one of his charges, who’s trying in vain to save that managers job and the company a lot of money.

And I know that HRC is exactly that kind of boss. I know because I see her laugh at people who have genuine convictions that are often very similar to the convictions she tries to sell as her own.

Drone me bitch. I’ve seen you before. You’re not getting my vote.

–A former Democrat in the Commonwealth of Virginia

Anonymous Coward says:

It would be nice,

if there was some integrity to the U.S. intelligence reports. I would LIKE to think something other than:

“Gee, I guess Clinton finally sealed the deal. I wonder whether it will be a 5% or 10% budget increase?”

You have to ask: How many of the exploits used, were known to the NSA and never disclosed to the software companies responsible for them? Every indicator, is probably most of them.

So who’s on who’s side? How can they be on the United States, when they willfully neglect known exploitation of the Constitutional rights of the American people, and in many cases facilitate abuses against those rights?

So even if the Russian DID do what their accused of, ultimately the responsibility is domestic. “If you see something say something.” Snowden saw something, and he said something, and now he is a political refugee.

The only “them vs. us” issue in the United States, requires no military intervention. In fact the Posse Comitatus act specifically restricts it.

John Mayor says:

THE CERTAINTY OF THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE

Well!… if one could establish that there is human cancer, and isolate its position in a given human system, it would be efficient and effective to try and take it out! Nevertheless!… I agree!… indiscriminately bombarding the cancer with radiation (i.e., or ICT hacks, with aggressive political and military acts!), may only increase metastisization of the cancer (see, http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/study-radiation-therapy-can-make-cancers-30x-more-malignant)!
.
What you want to do in the treatment of human cancer!… like ICT cancers!… is adhere to the Uncertainty Principle, in Quantum Mechanics! In fact, no Oncologist (or ICT SECURITY POLICY ANALYST, or TECHNICIAN!) anywhere in the world today, should be one, without an understanding of the Uncertainty Principle, in Quantum Mechanics!
.
And to sum up… the day we move to Quantum Computers, is the day the Uncertainty Principle will be REQUIRED READING!
.
Please!… no emails!

ot (profile) says:

It is worrisome to think of the unintended (or intended) consequences of making an issue of behavior by the Russians which we also do to them. interesting this finger pointing comes up as some are blaming Clinton/dnc for “fixing” the primaries. given the history of “Clinton contamination” I prefer beefing up onsite controls in our own systems. hard to believe we are mirroring the status of a banana republic re: “free” elections. in any event as we are unable militarily to close the deal against Iraq and Afghanistan in 13 short years of war I am tired or the bull krap from the military/industrial/surveillance complex.

Anonymous Coward says:

What?

“Russia’s senior-most officials”

“senior-most” ? This is awkward use of the English language. Have they been hacked? The statement looks incredibly amateur, with no citations and awkward grammar. E.g.

“the decentralized nature of our election system in this country”

This country in contrast to what exactly? Mozambique? By using “OUR election system” is not “THIS country” implied?

If they want to be taken srsly, they need to stop with the 13yr old interns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Aaaaah! The Russians are interfering with our elections!

No. That would be the FBI, by refusing to uphold their oath to enforce the law and protect the Constitution of the United States.

Even if there was Russian disinformation, it is within the FBI’s pervue to review the related documents. And if their are people preventing them from doing that, Their job is to ARREST those people.

There is certainly enough in the public domain to bring charges. So the silence coming out of the Hoover building says all that needs to be said.

It is not a matter of corrupting the election. That has already happened. The question now is now is how to restore the infrastructure that was instituted for the purposes of upholding the Constitution, and the electoral process.

— A Voter from the Commonwealth of Virginia

Anonymous Coward says:

Missing the Obvious

Everyone is missing the obvious.

Yahoo! having 500 million accounts compromised because they had government code running in the kernel as a back door is exactly why you can’t allow back doors into systems.

This is all the evidence anyone who wants to refute the government’s nerd harder argument ever needs to make.

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