The Pentagon and the US intelligence community plan to launch a counter-cyberattack on Russia if the country interferes with US midterm elections, according to a recent report from the Center for Public Integrity. In preparation, US military hackers have already been given permission to access Russian cybersystems necessary to complete the attack, said the report.
This movement is one of the cyber battle plans organized since President Donald Trump signed an executive order that streamlines the review of such operations, said the report. Essentially, the new policy allows for potential offensive actions to be executed more quickly upon attack.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the threat of cyberwarfare (Tech Pro Research)
The plan's existence is proof that America is integrating itself more into cybercombat, said the report. With technology embedded into the inner workings of society, cyberattacks are an inevitable threat vector, even in politics. In fact, the report warned that cyberattacks are "becoming a regular currency of warfare."
Concerns surrounding election cybersecurity reached a new height in the 2016 presidential election, when Russian hackers tried to infiltrate the election systems of 21 US states. While none of the systems were reportedly breached, the voter registration databases were targeted.
Since then, many of the states affected have changed policies and practices around election security. Between beefing up post-election audit laws, going back to paper ballots, and improving cybersecurity in voting registration systems, US states are not taking the threats lightly.
Additionally, the states targeted in 2016 are very likely to be targeted again, said Danielle Root, voting rights manager for the Center of American Progress. In fact, 2016 may have just been a testing ground for Russian hackers, meaning that upcoming elections might be even more at risk, Root added.
While preparing for a prospective cyberattack is a good practice, the idea of counterattacking presents a new set of concerns. By engaging another country in cyberwarfare, this could put more US businesses and infrastructure at the forefront of further attacks.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- The Pentagon and US intelligence community have prepared counter-cyberattacks in preparation for election hacking from Russia in the midterm elections. — Center for Public Integrity, 2018
- US military hackers have already been given permission to infiltrate Russian cybersystems in preparation for a prospective attack. — Center for Public Integrity, 2018
- Can Russian hackers be stopped? Here's why it might take 20 years (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Security experts warn lawmakers of election hacking risks (ZDNet)
- Cheat sheet: How to become a cybersecurity pro (TechRepublic)
- No Russian interference yet in US midterm elections: FireEye (ZDNet)
- These 10 US states are at the highest risk for election hacking (TechRepublic)
Macy Bayern has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.