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US Cybercom’s Strategy for Countering Russian Attempts to Interfere in the 2020 Election

The US defense department has decided to improve its cybersecurity to counter any Russian attempts to interfere in the 2020 US election. A US Cybercom official announced that Washington would employ cyber warfare against senior Russian leaders and officials if Moscow to combat any meddling in the election. The ongoing impeachment proceedings against the Trump administration were a part of the controversial issues regarding Russia’s interference in the US 2016 election.

Development of a Counter-Cyber Attack

The development of such counter-tactics aimed at shielding the US from attempts of interference from foreign countries, especially Russia, in the upcoming Presidential election. Trump’s ignorance of the fact concerning Russian involvement in the manipulation and hacks in the previous elections posed as a crucial loophole in the country’s cybersecurity. Over the years, Congress and the Trump administration had not shown any serious intentions on the use of cyber-operations for military security purposes to stop foreign adversaries.

Among other military associations, including Joint Special Operations Command, Cybercom was the first organization that started implementing information warfare to combat foreign interference in the election. In 2016, the National Security Council, under the Obama administration, developed a cyber system but failed to function due to indifference in Congress. Comparing the two cyber tactics, a military official stated, “There is a night-and-day difference between 2016 and this.”

Since October 2018, Cybercom has been developing its tactics using emails, pop-ups, and texts against Russian-backed hackers who involved in the spreading of false propaganda on the US-based social media platforms. As a US military official claimed, “These trolls worked for the Internet Research Agency, a private entity controlled by a Russian oligarch close to Putin.”

Cybercom had warned the hackers that were working for Russian military intelligence. As reported by the Washington Post, referring to the last election, “When the trolls persisted, Cybercom, beginning on Election Day and for at least two days afterward, knocked their servers offline.”

Targeting Russia’s Senior Leaders and Officials

Washington defense officials issued a classified update in November 2019, ‘a national intelligence estimate’, which asserted Russia’s key goal for the US 2020 campaign. A US Cyber Command official warned, “They would target senior leadership and Russian elites, though probably not President Vladimir Putin, which would be considered too provocative.”

Cybercom’s main objective is to access these leaders’ personal information and release sensitive data if and when they make foreign entities attempt to manipulate the coming election of 2020.

With the existing cyber threat to the US, Bobby Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, explained, “When the Russians put implants into an electric grid; it means they’re making a credible showing that they have the ability to hurt you if things escalate. What may be contemplated here is an individualized version of that, not unlike individually targeted economic sanctions. It’s sending credible signals to key decision-makers that they are vulnerable if they take certain adversarial actions.”

The military-linked cyber program was initiated by General Paul Nakasone, who heads Cybercom and the National Security Agency (NSA). According to the proposal, the NSA, a key authority that deals with supervision and surveillance of security threats, would inspect the program to weave cyber-offensive capabilities into military operations.

Nakasone said, “It’s a really big deal because we have not done a good job in the past of integrating traditional information warfare with cyber-operations.” He continued, “In 332 days, our nation is going to elect a president.” Nakasone also stated, “We can’t let up. This is something we cannot be episodic about. The defense of our nation, the defense of our elections, is something that will be every single day for as long as I can see into the future.”

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