USA ready to hack Kremlin, Russian infrastructure

Troy Powers
November 5, 2016

Should Russia move against USA core infrastructure, American military hackers could shut down some of Moscow's systems - an "active defense", a senior intelligence official told NBC. In recent weeks, officials at the Department of Homeland Security have collected evidence of apparent Russian "scanning" of state-run databases and computer voting systems.

The effort is being coordinated by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, but reaches across the government to include the CIA, the National Security Agency and other elements of the Defense Department, current and former officials say.

"The Russians are in an offensive mode and [the U.S.is] working on strategies to respond to that, and at the highest levels", he said. President Barak Obama talked directly about it with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of last G-20 summit. Instead, U.S. officials said it is more likely that Russian Federation would use hacking tools to expose or fabricate signs of vote-rigging, aiming to delegitimize an election outcome that Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he may refuse to accept if he does not win.

On Friday the hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0", which US officials say is a front for Russian intelligence, tweeted a threat to monitor the USA elections "from inside the system".

"So this is to make sure that we have all the tools at our disposal and that we're prepared to respond to whatever it is that they do", the official said.

"We need to be prepared on every front, not just technical but messaging, and so on", the official added, saying the details were classified.

NBC reported another possibility that would disrupt the election: a large-scale hacking attempt to take down critical infrastructure like the power grid or the Internet.

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In October, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security jointly stated that Washington was "confident" the Russian government had directed computer attacks against USA political organizations.

Despite who wins the November 8 race, the U.S.

That report said US officials believe the most likely risk is hackers manipulating Twitter or other social media sites to spread misinformation about the election.

Officials say they have no specific warning of an attack on Election Day, but they believe a massive attack from October 21 could have been practice for this coming Tuesday.

James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that US hacks into the computer infrastructure of adversary nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, something he says he presumes has gone on for years, is akin to the kind of military scouting that is as old as human conflict.

The administration's decision could depend on what the Russians do in the coming days.

As NBC News reported Thursday, the USA government is marshaling resources to combat the threat in a way that is without precedent for a presidential election.