What The Hack?

When I awoke on Tuesday morning (I’m penning this a bit later in that am) one of the first things I did was check my phone and was greeted by an email saying that several major websites including the New York Times and CNN had been hacked. This is part of a major issue confronting America recently and I want to pontificate on it for a bit today.

As of this writing we still do not have positive attribution for the most recent attacks but I suspect Russia. Perhaps not directly the Russian government but if not, then entities working from within the borders of that authoritarian state. Here is a reality check: nothing of that magnitude happens in Russia without the blessing of Vladimir Putin. For all intent and purpose, it is an asymmetrical warfare attack on America. Sooner or later, we will have to view events like this as such.

That begs the questions: Why? and why now?

I actually gave the answer to the “Why” question above. It is asymmetrical warfare. The MAD Theory, (Mutually Assured Destruction), still prevails in the halls of power in DC and Moscow. There is a possibility of a nuclear war but one between the current nuclear power nation states – with the possible exception of North Korea – is highly unlikely. Russia can’t defeat us in a conventional showdown. It has a desire to rise to the top again and the only way it can do that is to get the pack to come back to it. (Think in terms of a decidedly weaker third place team in a baseball pennant race.) Between destroying American’s faith in democracy (which has been an ongoing Russian project since at least 2015) and cyber attacking our functionality they have a chance to do just that.

It certainly appears that the pace and frequency of Russian cyber attacks have increased recently. This is part of the “Why now” question. President Biden and Putin are slated to meet on June 16th. Both are doing the diplomatic equivalent of chest puffing in the run up. Biden is meeting with allies to assure them that we still have their interests in our policies. Putin is the weaker but wants to be perceived as equal or superior is flexing his muscles with the cyber attacks.

Monday it was announced that American authorities recovered the majority of the ransom money paid in the recent pipeline cyber attack. This was one of my suspicions as outlined in an earlier article and I’m very happy to see it. This should prove to be somewhat of a deterrent to further large dollar ransomware attacks. (Sorry, us little guys are still largely on our own.) The current moral of this story is that if your entity is the victim of a ransomware attack report it to the FBI ASAP! (Little guys don’t expect your local law enforcement to do anything for you; they are way out of their league when it comes to combatting cyber or white collar crime.)

If you go back in history the invention of gunpowder was thought to make warfare unsurvivable. It didn’t. However it did kill a lot of people in the process and continues to do so to this day. Cyber attacks will follow largely the same path. Getting from here to there will be a challenge. I liken this to the mob protection racket; those who paid were the biggest losers. After all Putin’s regime, like Trump’s, is little more than an organized criminal enterprise.

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