The US is unmasking Russian hackers faster than ever before. Within just 48 hours after banks and government websites crashed in Ukraine, fingers were pointed at Russian spies.
According to Anne Neuberger, White House’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, the US has “technical information that links the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)” with the DDoS attack that had overloaded and brought down the Ukrainian websites.
She further added, “GRU infrastructure was seen transmitting high volumes of communication to Ukraine-based IP addresses and domains.” The intention behind the cyberattacks was to sow panic in Ukraine with over 150,000 Russian troops massed at the border.
There is an enormous change in the speed at which both the US and UK officials apportioned the blame on Russia. This just goes to show how attribution has become a crucial tool of cyber conflict for the United States. The US has in recent years used cyber attribution as a geopolitical tool than any other country in the world especially with its allies the UK when the target is Russia.
Neuberger said, “I will note that the speed with which we made that attribution is very unusual. We’ve done so because of a need to call out the behavior quickly as part of holding nations accountable when they conduct disruptive or destabilizing cyber-activity.”
The US has implemented the new policy in response to what happened in the wake of the 2016 US election. Back then Gavin Wilde, formerly a senior National Security Council official focused on Russia, revealed in the Intelligence Community Assessment how Moscow’s hacking and disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing the election.
With the efforts of President Obama himself, backed up by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the process was kickstarted to get all of the relevant US intelligence agencies in the same room and share information across a wide range of classification levels.
Though the assessment and attribution of the cyber campaign weren’t made public until 2017, months after the US election itself had come and gone.
Wilde in an MIT Technology Review said, “There was a feeling of helplessness [among US intelligence] when clearly the American public was the target audience for the Russians”
He further added, “But there was still a sense of failure that we weren’t able to defuse these activities before the narratives were well-seeded by the Russians and amplified by people in positions of prominence.”
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