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NYT: US Implemented Malware Into Russia’s Power Grid

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NYT: US Implemented Malware Into Russia's Power Grid

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The US was ramping up alleged digital attacks on Russia’s power grid “in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin,” the NYT reported citing mostly anonymous current and former government officials.

According to the outlet, interviews conducted over the last three months described a previously unreported deployment of US computer code inside Russia’s power grid and other targets. The alleged move was a classified accompaniment to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s alleged hacking and disinformation attempts surrounding the US 2018 midterm elections.

Anonymous advocates of the alleged strategy said that it had been long overdue after years of warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russia had allegedly inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

These moves could escalate the “daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.”

The Trump administration refused to provide any details on what the US Cyber Command, with its new authorities is undertaking.

On June 11th, US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said the US was now taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort “to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyberoperations against us, ‘You will pay a price.’”

The unnamed officials claimed that since “at least 2012,” the US has been putting reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electricity grid.

Now the game has allegedly changed, with the US taking on the offensive and placing potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system “at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.”

The commander of US Cyber Command, Gen. Paul Nakasone is a hawk, quite vocal about the need to “defend forward” deep in an adversary’s networks, simply to demonstrate that the US would respond to online attacks aimed at it.

In an undisclosed document – the National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, in summer 2018 US President Donald Trump gave new authorities to the US Cyber Command. Specifically, these allow General Nakasone’s unit to conduct offensive operations without presidential approval.

But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been allegedly conducted under new legal authorities, that were introduced with the military authorization bill, passed by Congress in 2018.

The provision approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”

Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.

One anonymous intelligence official claimed that it had got much more aggressive over the past year.

“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year. We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

There is no official confirmation of the operation, and the alleged depth reached by the alleged US malware.

Both General Nakasone and Mr. Bolton, through spokesmen, declined to answer questions about the incursions into Russia’s grid.

On June 11th, Bolton further said that “We thought the response in cyberspace against electoral meddling was the highest priority last year, and so that’s what we focused on. But we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in.”

“We will impose costs on you until you get the point.”

Two unnamed administration officials said that Trump hadn’t been briefed at all on the alleged steps to place probes in Russia’s power grid.

Department of Defense and intelligence officials are allegedly wary of sharing information such as this to Trump, because he might request to not undertake actions against Russia or discuss it with foreign officials, such as mentioning a sensitive Syrian operation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in 2017.

The anonymous sources offered two separate opinions on the operation:

  • A signaling for Russia;
  • Prime the US for a possible response if “Putin became more aggressive.”

“It’s 21st-century gunboat diplomacy,” said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas, who has written extensively about the shifting legal basis for digital operations. “We’re showing the adversary we can inflict serious costs without actually doing much. We used to park ships within sight of the shore. Now, perhaps, we get access to key systems like the electric grid.”

Separately, or maybe not, the Xenotime hacker group appears to be probing the US power grids.

Security firm Dragos said that Xenotime has been performing network scans and reconnaissance on multiple components across the electric grids in the US and in other regions. Sergio Caltagirone, senior VP of threat intelligence at Dragos, told Ars his firm has detected dozens of utilities—about 20 of them located in the US—that have been subjected to Xenotime probes since late 2018.

“The threat has proliferated and is now targeting the US and Asia Pacific electric utilities, which means that we are no longer safe thinking that the threat to our electric utilities is understood or stable,” he said in an interview. “This is the first signal that threats are proliferating across sectors, which means that now we can’t be certain that a threat to one sector will stay in that sector and won’t cross over.”

“The scale of the operation, the number targeted and the regions being targeted,” Caltagirone said, “shows more than just a passing interest in the sector.”

Xenotime’s first reported attack happened in March 2018 and it targeted Saudi Arabia’s oil refinery Petro Rabigh and an SIS product line known as Triconex made by Schneider Electric. An analysis of the Triton malware showed its developers have performed extensive reverse engineering of the product.

It is unclear who Xenotime are and where they operate from, but FireEye assessed that the malware that attacked the Saudi refinery was highly likely developed with the help of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics in Moscow.

Russia has been tied to other critical infrastructure attacks, including one in December 2015 on regional power authorities in Ukraine that left hundreds of thousands of people in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine without electricity.

That alleged attack represented the first known hacker-caused power outage. And almost exactly one year later, a second hack allegedly tied to Russia took out power in Ukraine again.

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  • Neo Onh

    Casus belli?

    • Harry Smith

      Remember how the USA accused Russia in violation of the missiles treaty just to justify it’s own actions. Same thing here, but I think US doesn’t understand that USA modus vivendi is much more dependent on the grid.

      • Zionism = EVIL

        Americunts are probing (no pun intended) all of Russia’s soft spots and pushing how far they can go by humiliating Russia and treating it as a banana republic. Putin has shown only weakness so far from Syria to Ukraine and went along with Zionist attacks on Syria daily.

        • AM Hants

          Really?

          What would you wish President Putin to do? Launch the hypersonics, as we get used to being no more than a thermo-nuclear piece of ash, lying amongst the debris of a destroyed planet?

          Personally, think he is playing it brilliantly, by allowing the US and the West to expose themselves on the world stage, with no way back.

          How many people have woken up in at least the last 5 years, to the actions of the globalists? Whilst Russia and China, hoover up the gold and bring others into their multi-polar version, of living in peace. Contrasting it with the uni-polar, totalitarian order, the NWO so demands, but, is not getting.

          Remember, General Wesley Clark, believe it was back in 2003, stating ‘We will invade 7 nations in 5 years, ending in Iran’. Well, it is now 2019 and how many of those nations, since Russia took an interest have gone through successful regime change programmes, which the US and NATO believed they could inflict on them? How many nations are turning their backs on the $US and the US ‘bully boy’ tactics? Would that have been possible, if not for the actions and wisdom of Russia, under President Putin?

          • Zionism = EVIL

            Russia has supported all US wars and illegal sanctions against Iran and DPRK. It is making a mess in Syria and has no end game. It is not that easy to defend Russian weakness and Zionist control over it. It is the sad truth. I would hope that there are some self-respecting nationalists in Russia or it is game over soon.

          • AM Hants

            Yabba, dabba, doo dah.

            What state was Syria in, prior to President Putin speach in the United Nations, which was a couple of days before he lent a hand?

            Now Syria is winning the battle. Still, got a little further to go, but, they are winning.

            What does President Assad think, with regards Russia’s help?

            ‘We were close to direct conflict between Russia & US inside Syria’ – Bashar Assad

            ‘… ‘Russia deterred larger-scale attack on Syria’
            “The Russians announced publicly that they are going to destroy the bases that are going to be used to launch missiles, and our information – we don’t have evidence, we only have information, and that information is credible information – that they were thinking about a comprehensive attack all over Syria, and that’s why the threat pushed the West to make it on a much smaller scale,” the Syrian president said…

            …With Western ‘advisers’ deployed alongside their proxy forces in Syria, Assad also thanked Russia for not triggering face-to-face confrontation with the US, which is operating in close proximity both in the air and on the ground.

            “We were close to have direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces, and fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership,” Assad told Gazdiev. “We need the Russian support, but we need at the same time to avoid the American foolishness in order to be able to stabilize our country.”

            ‘Either you have a country or you don’t have a country’
            Despite praising the diplomatic efforts of the Astana peace process, and emphasizing the government’s own drive to win the hearts and minds by restoring order in liberated areas, and initiating a process of reconciliation, Assad says there are still some victories that will have to be won on the battlefield…’

            https://www.rt.com/news/428299-assad-syria-russia-interview/

            With regards DPRK, the President has no problems with Russia, now does he? Didn’t he enjoy his State Visit to Russia, earlier this year?

        • Harry Smith

          Yes, please say more like this. The underestimation of your enemy is the first step to lose the war. :)

          • Zionism = EVIL

            That is what the deluded Soviets thought too and we all know how well that ended :)

          • Harry Smith

            Yes. We Russians are stupid! More please!

        • Ma_Laoshi

          Have to agree unfortunately; some tough love seems required to shake the Teddybear out of hibernation and cure it of the partnership delusion. Better a bit of pain now then wait until the orcs march through Red Square like they already do in Kiev.

          Iranian westernizers are not wrong that a trading relationship with the West would benefit the Iranian economy–if only that West would allow it. But ultimately they seem to be Iranians, able to perceive that events are not turning out as they’d hoped. Russian westernizers, in contrast, are jews, who pursue their games for tribal reasons, and if Russia gets destroyed in the process they hey, mistakes happen.

          Very instructive also that in Trump’s first tweet, he was just fuming. Only after that somebody reminded him “Sir, we’re supposed to deny this stuff.” :-)

    • FlorianGeyer

      Stultitia :)

    • Zionism = EVIL

      Absolutely and global humiliation from “partners”, whose ultimate goal is to destroy Russia, if it does not stand up for its national security. The Americunts are gloating that they defeated and humiliated a much stronger USSR, so humiliating Russia is much easier. It is time for Russia to stand up for national self respect and build alliances with the few Zionist free free nations left. China has far bigger balls.

      • AM Hants

        They have been running the same script for centuries. Nearly got there, courtesy of Yeltsin. However, Russia finds justice is a dessert, best served cold as they flick off those who come looking for trouble.

        Who sent Napoleon on his way?
        Who sent Hitler on his way?

        How long has Russia been around, compared to the United States? Still in one piece, 11 time zones and a thriving economy, in control of their vast wealth of natural resources.

        How much debt is the US carrying? Besides the $21 trillion, national debt?

        How much debt is Russia carrying, that it has not got the reserves to pay off?

  • Zionism = EVIL

    Sadly, Putin’s Americunt and Zionist “partners” are treating Russia like a third world vassal state, it is time Russian nationalists stand up to Americunt thugs and Zionist parasites. At least, Iran which has no nuclear weapons has the guts to stand up to the Americunt warmongers. Russia needs to get its self respect back.

    • AM Hants

      No doubt, coming from Ukraine. ROFL,but, wondering why I am bothering to help you get your monthly bonus.

      • Zionism = EVIL

        Not really, just stating the truth as it may be unpalatable for some :)

        • AM Hants

          So need humour, carry on.

    • Sinbad2

      Have you heard of any blackouts in Russia, like in Venezuela Argentina and Uruguay?
      I think that American cyber attacks have just bounced off Russian firewalls.
      As with conventional warfare, the US is good at attacking the weak, but hopeless at attacking advanced nations.

      It really just demonstrates American inferiority.

    • Sinbad2

      As for self respect, I find that self control is a big part of self respect.

      Ultimately it’s who wins that matters, not egotistical fervor, and it’s Russia that is winning.

  • AM Hants

    ‘…A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property…’

    NYT, no doubt has no idea that it has just confirmed the US complicity, where war crimes are related.

    If Russia had stated they were doing the same, the UNSC would be holding emergency meetings, missiles would be flying from the US to Russia and the Western Media, would be in hyper-hysteria mode.

    But, it is OK for the US to carry out war crimes, fully supported by their media.

    Why have classified information, when the New York Times, publishes actions, before the ink is dry on authorisation papers. Not the first time now, is it?

  • Brother Thomas

    This is the new face of war, unleashed by the precedent set by the US/UK/Israeli Zero day Stuxnit worm. It would be naive to think a host of potential adversaries have not followed suit and do not already have malware in place in the US to activate in the event of a hot conflict.

    Seems to me that the US is far more vulnerable in this kind of warfare. Imagine no power or water in Chicago or LA versus in Moscow, Tehran, or Beijing. My money would be on civil society unraveling much faster in the US than any of these other countries.

    Time for the US to stop pushing the MIC’s war business agenda, and for rebuilding a genuine lawful and rule-based international order, IMO. The alternate is too horrible to imagine.

  • BE712

    Citing “anonymous officials” a.k.a the bullshit people, should never be taken seriously

  • Real Anti-Racist Action

    Russia simply needs to turn over the operations of all control systems over to Kaspersky-OS. Kaspersky OS is not even based on Linux at all, not in the slightest. It is completaly original software and totally locked down. Kaspersky is one of humanities last hopes.
    Below is the link for both Kaspersky Total free 30 day trial with full function. Plus Kaspersky’s free virus protection with unlimited licence.
    https://usa.kaspersky.com/downloads/thank-you/total-security-free-trial
    https://usa.kaspersky.com/free-antivirus

    • Sinbad2

      You are confusing operating systems and application software.
      I use Kaspersky and it’s a Windows application. Now some parts of it might boot before the OS, but most viruses come in via the OS, so antivirus has to run within the OS.

      • Real Anti-Racist Action

        Kaspersky actually has an operating system. I post the link below.
        https://os.kaspersky.com/

      • zman

        KOS is mostly for industrial uses, or more correctly, securely operating systems like IoT, etc. I don’t thoroughly understand it, but from what I have seen it is supposed to be impregnable. The description of it is rather lacking in relation to everyday desktops. They do however have the KSS which is available for all systems. The KOS can apparently host other systems and keep them secure. An analogy (if my understanding is correct) would be similar to a Wubi install of Linux on Windows. Extensive knowledge on the system is not exactly widespread.

  • Sinbad2

    Argentina and Uruguay have had power outages similar to the ones in Venezuela.
    I would bet that an American virus or malware designed to turn out the lights in Venezuela has got loose and is now taking out other countries.
    Eventually it will start attacking the US power system, the Americans will of course blame Russia.