Cyber threats

The different Cyber threats from Russia and the U.S. have now turned into civilian infrastructure. This conflict took a whole new turn when the New York Times reported that the U.S. Cyber Command is using an aggressive approach to target Russian electric power grids.

The U.S. administration denied this report completely. However, one thing became clear to Moscow. It was that if the U.S. goes down with such activities, Russia had to respond. WIRED magazine published an article recently in which they mentioned the growing cyber-reconnaissance on U.S. grids by malware from a Russian institution. This was the same malware, which stopped all operations at a Saudi Arabian oil refinery in 2017. It was one of the most reckless cyberattacks ever. Although both the U.S. and Russia have been targeting each other since 2012, these attacks have now become unrivaled.

There are many similarities between Moscow and Washington when it comes to cyber-deterrence. Both of them consider each other a capable rival. U.S. officials appreciate Moscow’s ability to use its power to revamp the academic structure, the private sector, and improve its overall cyber-capacity by hiring state-backed hackers.

Moscow also acknowledges the cyber presence of the U.S., which developed a strong malware like the “Stuxnet” virus. The U.S. also used digital operations to improve its regional power, like the Arab Spring in 2011. There are officials on both sides who think that civilian infrastructure is a good response to counter the cyber threats.

Although there are similarities in cyber-targeting, Washington and Moscow both have followed different paths for fighting and making policies against cyber threats. This is mainly due to the difference in resources and geography between the two.

There was a wide gap between using cyber operations and the capacity to launch them. The U.S. military built the capability to launch these cyber operations. However, the U.S. couldn’t decide when and where to launch these operations. On the other hand, Russia couldn’t launch cyber-operations against its rivals, for a long time.

Different events since 2016 have indicated a convergence of these factors. The U.S. has now shown the willingness to launch its operation against Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow has used its military cyber-capacity to improve its position and malware development.

The dangers in the cyber-deterrence of both sides is a matter of a mutual misunderstanding. For example, the Kremlin authorities are of the view that the U.S. is looking to undermine Russia’s global position. The Russian authorities point to the different U.S. cyberattacks that have affected Moscow, one way or another. The expansion in targeting the Russian power girds would ensure that Moscow would blame any future attack, as an act of U.S. cyber aggression.

Washington spends too little time in finding out the complexities of Russia’s cyber warfare. The 2016 cyberattack by Russia affected the Presidential elections of the U.S. There are reports that the Russian hackers stole private voter data and altered information in the 2016 elections. This shows that Washington wasn’t aware of the Russian approach to cyber warfare. Russian military operators conducted an aggressive cyber campaigning a year before the 2016 U.S. elections. They attacked many media organizations and threatened the well-being of military spouses.

Russians see their meddling in the 2016 elections, from a different perspective. The Kremlin representative on cyber-diplomacy issues, Andrey Krutskikh said that the Russian cyberattacks of 2016 were their biggest victory, since the 1949 atomic bombs.

Russian hackers have announced an undeclared war on the U.S. The Russian military hackers have attacked everything in the U.S., from the U.S. Think tanks to the Cathedral Churches. Washington has also blamed Russia for one of the most costly cyber-attacks in history. These Russian activities haven’t gone unanswered. The U.S. is now answering to these cyberattacks. However, it is a bit late now.

Washington and Moscow should realize that this long-term struggle between the two wouldn’t achieve anything substantial. If this undeclared cyber warfare goes on, no one knows where it will end. For now, all the two forces can do is to increase their defense mechanisms against potential cyber threats.