Tags: Cybersecurity | NSA/Surveillance | Russia | Russia Probe | vladimir putin | putin on the march | hacking

Doug Schoen: U.S. Must Counter Russian Hacking

Doug Schoen: U.S. Must Counter Russian Hacking
"Putin on the March: The Russian President's Unchecked Global Advance" by Douglass E. Schoen [Encounter Books]

By Tuesday, 14 November 2017 07:35 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Democratic pollster and Fox News Contributor Douglas E. Schoen has dedicated his career to conducting polls and analyzing U.S. politics. But the brutal rise of Russian strongman and former Soviet intelligence operative Vladimir Putin forced Schoen to turn his analytical eye to events overseas.

His 2016 volume "Putin's Master Plan" revealed Putin's scheme to exploit a complacent West. Since then, Putin's unbridled ambition has only grown.

In response, Schoen now offers a new book, "Putin on the March: The Russian President's Unchecked Global Advance."

Schoen's book offers a shockingly clear-eyed assessment of Putin's stunning successes. The good news, he says: The United States has the technological, economic, and military means to stop Putin in his tracks. The only question: Does it have the will?

In this third and final exclusive excerpt from Schoen's new book, provided courtesy of Encounter Books, he explains the United States has a few cyber tricks of its own – and it might be time to use them.

An exclusive excerpt from "Putin on the March: The Russian President's Unchecked Global Advance" by Douglass E. Schoen [Encounter Books]:

Worries about the Russian cyberwar were heightened in December 2016 when Russia made a successful hack of the Ukraine power grid. The attack aroused concerns among American lawmakers that there would be a similar attack here and prompted calls for the incoming Trump administration to improve safeguards of America’s critical infrastructure.

The Russians have already wrought havoc within American borders – witness the lingering political fallout from their cyberwarfare conducted during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Before leaving office, President Obama shut down two Russian resorts in Maryland, calling them "beachside spy nests sometimes used by Russian intelligence operatives to have long conversations on the sand to avoid being ensnared by American electronic surveillance."

As was so often the case with Obama, it was a post facto move – the damage had already been done.

Looking forward, we must expect more Russian attacks. How to respond? The United States can retaliate on many levels.

A low-level cyber retaliation might send encrypted cyber weapons into Russian networks; it might involve, according to the Yale Journal of International Affairs, the "defacements of government websites, disruptions of Internet services, interferences and disablements of communications, or the dissemination of propaganda."

The Yale article also discloses that after the Russian hacking of DNC databases, senior government officials considered embedding malware in Russian computer systems "for intelligence gathering and future cyber-assaults."

A medium-level cyber intrusion might use "logic bombs" – computer code inserted into software systems to set off malfunctions – to cause operational damage to Russia's critical infrastructure. The United States has invested significantly in this option. A high-level cyberattack would simply up the ante, striking the most critical Russian infrastructure in the most serious ways – say, by hacking and disabling air-traffic-control systems, an event that could lead to loss of life.

Finally, in a military-level cyberattack, the United States could launch direct attacks on Russian military targets, by, say, disabling power at airfields or nuclear facilities. Needless to say, higher-level responses would likely bring retaliation or attempted retaliation. Yet the United States has clearly pondered taking such steps: we implanted malware in Russian military systems during the 2016 election for potential activation (although it appears we did not go through with the attack).

The potentially stark ramifications of these options are clear. Yet the Russian incursions into our own systems have been quite serious as well – as are the threats of further attacks.

Finally, we have got to do better on counterintelligence more generally. At every turn over the past several years, we have been caught unawares and unprepared for Russian actions. The aggression against Crimea and Ukraine, the bold moves in Syria and the Middle East, and the cyberwar taken to American shores — all these Putin campaigns essentially went undetected by American intelligence.

To some degree, Putin's routs of recent years happened because of the lack of American attention. While Putin operated with boldness and determination, American intelligence still largely trained its eyes only on counterterrorism. We simply did not focus on the Russian threat.

I have argued for years we should be channeling more resources into US spy agencies, and fortunately, that finally seems to be happening: U.S. intelligence agencies have heightened their operations against Russia to a pitch not seen since the close of the Cold War, according to officials. This mobilization includes "clandestine CIA operatives, National Security Agency cyberespionage capabilities, satellite systems and other intelligence assets," according to a report in The Washington Post.

Still, U.S. spy agencies are "playing catch-up big time" with Russia, a senior U.S. intelligence official said. Another acknowledged "we've definitely been ignoring Russia for the last 15 years." We have a long way to go, though the arrow is finally pointing in the right direction.

One liability of the climate in which the United States operates – which does not burden Russia – consists of the opposing viewpoints of privacy advocates and defenders of strong counterintelligence. This is particularly evident in the debate over section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which will expire in December 2017 unless Congress reauthorizes it – something it absolutely should do.

Section 702 permits the United States to, in the words of one description, "spy on foreigners believed to be living overseas whose communications pass through American phone or internet providers." It is a powerful tool, but privacy advocates complain it inevitably gathers up vast amounts of data on innocent Americans.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington is working on revisions to the law to address these concerns and ensure the law will be reauthorized; some question, however, whether the Trump administration will get behind a new, possibly weakened, version of the law.

We should heed the words of Mike Rogers, head of Cybercom, who believes letting section 702 expire would seriously compromise cyber intelligence operations. Rogers avers without section 702, we might not have learned what we have so far about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Much of what was in the intelligence community's assessment, for example, on the Russian efforts against the U.S. election process in 2016, was informed by knowledge we gained through (Section) 702 authority," he said.

That testimony might not be the most inspiring argument for preserving the law – that it helped us diagnose, after the fact, what Russia was up to – but this is no time for the United States to scale back its tool kit.

Reauthorizing section 702 will only be a small aspect of what needs to be a broad and committed American cyber-counterintelligence strategy against Russia – a strategy that, invariably, will have to begin incorporating offensive moves as much as defensive ones.

This was the third and final exclusive excerpt from Doug Schoen's new book, "Putin on the March: The Russian President's Unchecked Global Advance": How the United States can up the ante in Putin's cyberwar by launching a few "logic bombs" of its own.

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Doug Schoen now offers a new book, "Putin on the March: The Russian President's Unchecked Global Advance." Schoen's book offers a shockingly clear-eyed assessment of Putin's stunning successes.
vladimir putin, putin on the march, hacking, doug schoen
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 07:35 PM
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