Is the US cyber bombing Russia right now? - analysis

During the 2018 midterm elections, the US essentially cyber body-slammed the Russian intelligence agency responsible for the 2016 interference.

Cyber Hackers (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cyber Hackers
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If you are part of Russia’s cyber intelligence agency and your computer systems are not working quite right today, it is probably more than just a glitch.
Amid many uncertainties from the US election, one is the cyber sphere.
One of the biggest questions is whether the US military cyber command is cyber-bombing Russia as you read this.
It is widely known that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential election with a massive social media campaign designed to boost Donald Trump (no one has been able to conclude to what extent it impacted the outcome).
Yet, it is less known that under Trump during the 2018 midterm elections, the US essentially cyber body-slammed the Russian intelligence agency responsible for the 2016 interference.
The Washington Post reported this in February 2019, and Trump himself confirmed it in July of this year, a confirmation that the reduced Russian involvement surrounding the 2018 election was no accident, but the media focus was far more on the 2016 election.
According to the 2019 report, US Cyber Command’s attack started on the first day of voting for the November 2018 midterm elections, and continued for a few days while votes were tallied.
“They basically took the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] off-line,” one source familiar with the matter told the Post.
“Look, we stopped it,” Trump told the newspaper.
Russia’s IRA, which is bizarrely named considering its role is to interfere in elections and create chaos across the planet, was indicted by US special counsel Robert Mueller in 2018 for conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Social media influence campaigns by Moscow were also detected during the 2018 midterms, but were viewed as less successful, likely in large part due to the preemptive strike by US Cyber Command.
We also know that Russia has gone into overdrive to impact the current 2020 presidential election.
In mid-September, US tech giant Microsoft informed the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that it may have been targeted by Russian state-backed actors.
Hackers reportedly hit personnel at the campaign strategy and communications firm SKDKnickerbocker, which has been involved in both Biden’s campaign and the campaigns of several past Democratic presidential candidates.
In mid-September, sources told Reuters that hackers had been trying to break into the firm’s networks for two months, but appear to have failed.
Also, in mid-September, the US Treasury Department sanctioned four people accused of trying to interfere in the 2020 election on behalf of Russia.
One of those sanctioned is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, while the others are Russian nationals employed by Russia’s IRA.
This summer, US intelligence officials warned of Russian interference as well as Chinese and Iranian interference, but Moscow was still considered the worst offender.
All of this would seem to lead to the conclusion that if the US hit Russia’s IRA hard in 2018 to limit its impact on Election Day and on vote counting in the days after, then the same playbook is probably being used as this goes to print.
Many cyber experts have criticized Trump for using his Twitter account to promote disinformation. But at the same time, Trump is credited by cyber experts for hitting Russia back harder in 2018 than the Obama administration was willing to do in 2016 even as it saw Russian interference in real time.
So if you work for Russia’s IRA, and Internet service is shaky, it might be worth it to just take a few days off.