America’s Cyber Command Accepts Initiating Operations in Support of Ukraine

America’s Cyber Command Accepts Initiating Operations in Support of Ukraine

The US military’s hacking arm, Cyber Command, has initiated offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion, according to the command’s chief. It’s a rare public acknowledgement of hacking operations by US military authorities, which are generally cloaked in secrecy.

The revelation highlights how critical projecting strength in cyberspace has been to the Joe Biden administration’s efforts to avoid directly confronting Russia in a war, both in support of Ukraine’s defences and to potentially dissuade Russia from undertaking cyberattacks against US infrastructure.

After the US and its allies placed sweeping sanctions on the Kremlin over its war in Ukraine, officials from the Biden administration have warned for months about the possibility of retaliatory Russian cyberattacks against US infrastructure.

As reported by CNN, a senior US defence intelligence official said that Moscow may not want to risk retaliatory US cyberattacks that would obstruct Russian military activities.

The unnamed official also said that Russian military activities in Ukraine have already caused enough issues for them and according to him “adding any kind of potential for US cyber into that mix … [is] probably factoring into their decision calculus”.

The insider noted that the lack of Russian hacking on US targets could be due to a fear of escalation and what the US response might be, particularly if the US response affects Russian combat power in some way.

“For Russia, understanding the full scope of US cyber combat power is a gap for them which leaves them unsure about opening this front, at least at this time. Cyber warfare is a new domain … It hasn’t been around long enough for any one nation-state to dominate it,” said the senior US official.

According to a Washington Post investigation, the command’s earlier hacking activities included taking down a Russian troll farm during the 2018 US midterm elections and targeting ransomware operatives who threaten US firms.

However, while large-scale breaches of US firms linked to the Ukraine conflict have been few, a slew of attempted intrusions have been reported in Ukraine and Russia as cyber vigilantes take sides in the conflict.

Russian government ministries’ and media mouthpieces’ websites have been taken down or changed to broadcast anti-war sentiments. Though the international hacktivist collective Anonymous has taken responsibility for major attacks on Russian organizations, officials are concerned that the Russian government may wrongly believe that such hacking is being perpetrated by the US administration.

“I would say there’s a real danger of unintentionally attributing something to the United States that the United States or its allies simply did not do,” the US defence official stated.

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Assam Press