Russia Steps Up Its Cyber Attacks. How Should the West Respond?

Have we entered a new Cold War with Russia?

There are those who think so. That’s due to the increased amount of cyber attacks the West is facing from Russia.

A few weeks ago, I let you know about Russia’s “on-going and deliberate” operation to penetrate the U.S. energy grid.

Our enemy has been targeting American nuclear power plants. Plus water and electrical systems. And aviation systems. Their goal seems to be showing us what they are capable of.

Is Russia Laying the Groundwork for a Cyber War?

Since then, Russian leaders have expressed anger about the recent bombing of Syria by the U.S. and other countries. The bombings followed a chemical attack near Damascus blamed on the Syrian government.

The Russians said those actions will have consequences. And it’s looking like those consequences could be of the cyber variety.

We’re seeing a new and different threat against the West from Russia these days. That’s according to the U.S. and U.K. governments.

Do these actions mean Russia is preparing for an all-out cyber war soon?

Homeland Security Issues Warning

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security posted a recent update on its website about this topic.

The update came from U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. It’s long and has a considerable amount of technical jargon in it.

To simplify, it said that a U.S. “industry partner” notified the FBI of malicious cyber activity. It came from “Russian state-sponsored cyber actors.”

The Russians redirected domain name systems queries to their own infrastructure.

They did this with a technique called “spoofing.” This process hacks routers, switches and firewalls in web traffic.

Own the Router, Own the Traffic

Network devices are easy targets because everyone uses them. Hacking them gives the Russians an ability to watch and even deny traffic to and from networks.

The risks to business’ data and citizens’ personal information grow each day. This is something that can affect everyone.

An alert put out by the U.S. and U.K. says compromised routers help Russia “support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks and lay a foundation for future offensive operations.”

Preparation Key for Citizens, Companies

Why are the U.S. and U.K. now making these Russian threats public? They want companies and individuals to be diligent in protecting vulnerabilities.

How does the average American citizen protect his communications and personal information from eyes that can spy and manipulate?

First is to determine the make and model of your various computer devices. Next, find out which companies produced those devices. Those companies should make “vendor guidelines” available online for how to deal with the issue.

Some of these companies have already been doing this. Others are now joining in. But now they are all aware of how important it is to keep the public informed.

Air Raid Drills for the 21st Century

During the 1960s Cold War, we conducted air raid drills and practiced “duck and cover” exercises. The 21st century equivalent is monitoring our firewalls and Internet security. And upgrading our passwords.

On the bigger stage, companies need to do the same. Not only to protect themselves, but to protect sensitive information they have stored on folks like you and me.

Howard Marshall, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, said this. “Once you own the router, you own all the traffic, to include the chance to harvest credentials and passwords.”

Government Options Include Sanctions

So, what is the government’s role in this? First is to alert individuals and companies to the problem. Next is developing programs with stronger defenses.

Finally, the government is imposing sanctions against Russia. And against any other country engaged in this type of behavior.

It used to be Russian weapons of mass destruction that Americans were most concerned about.

We still have that concern. But Russia knows using them would result in decimation of its own infrastructure as well. So, now they focus on cyber warfare.

Are Cyber Attacks an Act of War?

Are cyber-attacks a safer and more “polite” form of battle between Russia and the West?

Or is this as an all-out act of war? That’s the issue facing the U.S. and U.K. governments right now.

Cyber attacks compromise our critical infrastructure. And they interfere with public health, safety and economic security. That sounds like an act of war to me.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear your opinion on this subject.


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