Donald Trump may look the other way on Russian interference in US elections, while grudgingly admitting that having Putin's people bump off spies in broad daylight on British soil might be problematic, but it looks like not even Trump is willing to give Moscow a pass on the latest Russian cyberattack operation: hacking the US power grid so that Putin could shut off the lights at will.
The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will.
United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict.
They said the strikes accelerated in late 2015, at the same time the Russian interference in the American election was underway. The attackers had compromised some operators in North America and Europe by spring 2017, after President Trump was inaugurated.
In the following months, according to a Department of Homeland Security report issued on Thursday, Russian hackers made their way to machines with access to critical control systems at power plants that were not identified. The hackers never went so far as to sabotage or shut down the computer systems that guide the operations of the plants.
Still, new computer screenshots released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday made clear that Russian state hackers had the foothold they would have needed to manipulate or shut down power plants.
“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm.
“From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation,” Mr. Chien said.
American intelligence agencies were aware of the attacks for the past year and a half, and the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. first issued urgent warnings to utility companies in June. On Thursday, both agencies offered new details as the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and organizations it accused of election meddling and “malicious cyberattacks.”
It was the first time the administration officially named Russia as the perpetrator of the assaults. And it marked the third time in recent months that the White House, departing from its usual reluctance to publicly reveal intelligence, blamed foreign government forces for attacks on infrastructure in the United States.
We're now seeing the fruits of Russia's two biggest counterintelligence coups: Edward Snowden's defection to Moscow with hundreds of thousands of classified NSA documents in 2013, and Thomas Martin, the NSA contractor who was arrested in October 2016 for what was an even larger mole operation.
You can bet your sweet bippy that the info Moscow gained from these treasure troves directly led to to our power and water systems being compromised by our good friends at the Kremlin over the last year or so. US Cyber security firms have been warning that our power and water infrastructure have been compromised for months now, but only now is the Trump regime saying anything, pointing the deadly obvious finger at Putin's merry band of assholes.
The Russians gained the keys to the kingdom, and they've been raiding the pantry ever since. Not even Trump can ignore Russia if they take over a nuclear plant or three. The US sanctions in return are barely better than nothing, Putin doesn't care unless the US goes after his billions personally (which Trump won't do as Putin would use whatever leverage he had to end him politically) but at least we now know where the line is that actually gets Trump to take token action against Russia.
But it remains token action at best. This week we've seen both the Secretary of State and now most likely the National Security Adviser fired, both men wanted real sanctions against Russia and Putin. Both men are now gone and odds are several more on the way out. They will be replaced by folks who definitely want war with other nations, and who definitely will not do a thing about Russia's continued attacks on the country.
We're deep in the heart of darkness guys, and it's going to get a lot worse and soon.