US vows response to Russian hack attack at ‘appropriate time’
DIRECTLY accusing Russia of trying to manipulate the 2016 US presidential election, the United States has vowed to respond at a “time and place of our choosing”.
“We will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do it when we choose to,” a senior administration official told AFP, using language usually associated with military and counter-terror campaigns.
“The public should not assume that they will necessarily know what actions have been taken or what actions we will take.”
Earlier, in an unusual step, US intelligence and homeland security publicly accused the Russian government of directing cyber attacks on American political organisations.
They said a series of email hacks, leaked to DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks by an online entity known as Guccifer 2.0, were “intended to interfere with the US election process”.
“We believe, based on the scope of these efforts, that only Russia’s seniormost officials could have authorised these activities.”
The Kremlin labelled the allegations as “rubbish”.
The US announcement brought instant, bipartisan demands from Congress for robust response.
“Russia must face serious consequences,” said Republican Senator Ben Sasse. “Moscow orchestrated these hacks because Putin believes Sovietstyle aggression is worth it.”
“The US must upend Putin’s calculus with a strong diplomatic, political, cyber and economic response.”
Throughout a series of high-profile hacks, the government has rarely publicly named the perpetrators.
One notable exception came in 2014, when North Korea was blamed for a retaliator hack against Sony over the less-than-flattering portrayal of a Kim Jong-un-like character in the movie The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Concerned that attack would have a chilling effect on free speech, President Barack Obama issued an executive order authorising additional sanctions against the regime.
Policymakers have long struggled in responding to cyberattacks, where it’s hard to pin down the author and a proportional response is difficult to measure.
An attack on the electricity grid or vital infrastructure could be seen as an act of war, but it is less clear whether the same could be said of trying to manipulate the outcome of an election.