Russian Cyber Attacks Targets and Purpose

Russian Cyber Attacks Targets and Purpose

Russian hackers are causing world wide problems.

Russian Cyber Attacks Targets and Purpose

By Joseph Wales and D. S. Mitchell

 

A Consistent Threat

Headlines linking Russia to a web of cyber attacks against a variety of sovereign nations has become daily bread for decision-makers and the public alike. Whether it’s the NotPetya attack, the recent shut down of the Colonial Pipeline, or meddling in foreign elections; Russia is a consistent and aggravating threat. Russia uses cyber operations alongside non-military and military methods to pursue its strategic goals. It views this as an ongoing information confrontation.

Back in Time

Russia began attacks on the United States in 1996 with the Moonlight Maze attack. The Moonlight Maze resulted in the theft of a massive amount of classified information from several U.S. government agencies. Those effected included NASA, the Department of Energy, the Defense Department, and numerous private sector entities and defense contractors. The attack caused a serious breach, compromising national security interests, strategies, and capabilities.

Ukraine Intimidation

Russian state-sponsored attacks are on the rise, most famously Russian cyber ninjas are behind the recent mischief in Ukraine. Several cyber events have  knocked out major government websites this month. This cyber-intrusion is aimed to intimidate society and destabilize the situation in the country, stopping the work in the public sector, and crushing citizens trust in the governing authorities.

What It Includes

Russia’s cyber warfare units employ hacker attacks, internet surveillance SORM technology, dissemination of  propaganda and misinformation, political trolling, and all means of social media manipulation. Most of these attacks, although not technically in house operations,  are still coordinated by the Russian FSB. The FSB replaced the notorious KGB, but a change in initials doesn’t change the mission.

How Many From Russia?

Over the past year, 58% of all cyber-attacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states came from Russia. Moreover, these attacks are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% rate in 2020, to a 32% successful compromise rate in 2021. Russian nation-state attacks are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which saw a hike from 3% to 53% in a year—these attacks target agencies involved in national security, defense, and foreign policy. The top three nations targeted by Russian cyber attacks were Ukraine, UK, and the United States.

Common Causes For Cyber Attacks

Most often, cyber-attacks occur because the attackers want something:

  • IT infrastructure
  • Clients’ lists
  • Customer database
  • Customers or staff’ email addresses and login details
  • Sensitive personal data
  • Customers’ financial details such as credit card data
  • Business’ financial details

Russian Motives

Putin’s motivation is different.  Putin life goal is to restore the territory lost with the collapse of the former Soviet Union. The Russian president views cyber-attacks as a natural extension for achieving his goals. For instance, how the Russian military hacked Olympic enemies for revenge, and how it hacked the Democratic National Committee to bolster Trump’s chances in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Russians are mainly interested in influence operations without physical manipulation.

Classic Influence Operation

What we saw in the 2016 U. S. elections was a classic influence operation. This was also Putin’s aim when hacking Russia’s perceived Olympic enemies. Russia wanted information it could use against these enemies in social media campaigns. Manipulation of the news, creating new mind sets, instigating social rifts.

China, A Different Animal

On the other hand, China has also been actively involved in passive cyber-attacks. However, in the case of China, their main focus seems to center on economic, technology both military and civilian. They are going after intellectual property and stealing it to improve their advantage in world trade. For instance, they infiltrated and copied the plans of the fighter jets F-35 and F-22. The Chinese now have the largest navy in the world, thanks to learning many western secrets. The issues of Hong Kong and Taiwan are just below the surface.

Any Cut Back Coming?

Evelyn Farkas, a former defense official for Obama, argued that the Russian government would not be stopping state-sponsored cyber-attacks against America or any other nation, unless the consequences  were so painful that continuation of such behavior would be unthinkable. Despite President Biden’s meeting with Putin recently, the Russians seem immovable, denying responsibility for their ongoing computer attacks. During their meeting, Biden argued that some crucial infrastructures such as energy and water systems should be off-limits to any type of attack. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough mettle in the whole of the U.S. government to go after Putin and/or Xi Jinping with a cyber sledge hammer. Unless Putin and his cyber ninja forces are caused real pain, the attacks will continue.

 

Russian Mercenary Drama in Mali

Russian Mercenary Drama in Mali

Mali is a landlocked country in western Africa

Russian Mercenary Drama in Mali

By Nicholas Waithaka and D. S. Mitchell

Increasing Instability in Mali

Mali has been a hotbed of political unrest for decades, making it vulnerable to external interference from players like Russia and China. Over the past few months, reports indicate that the head of Mali’s military junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, has negotiated a deal that would bring approximately 1,000 mercenaries from the Wagner Group into the country. Mali has had escalating security and political problems, but a turn to international paramilitary actors may become the proverbial slippery slope.

A Spiderweb Of Interference

The Wagner group, first appeared in Ukraine in 2014, where it assisted the Russian military in the annexation of Crimea. Since then, a spiderweb of paramilitaries, mercenary organizations, and businesses interestingly linked to Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin have emerged under the general name; the Wagner Group.

Encouraging Instability 

In Syria the Wagner Group supported embattled President Bashar al-Assad while securing a foothold in the country’s energy sector.  In other unstable areas around the world such as Libya, Sudan, Madagascar, Mozambique and now Mali, a Russian paramilitary group is providing military support to unpopular, and undemocratic governments. The Wagner Group has become a shorthand name for a mostly opaque and extensive network of mercenary services. In fact, U.S. intelligence services caution the benign name may disrupt our ability to think about what they do and how they operate.

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Alexi Navalny And His Current Situation

Alexi Navalny And His Current Situation

Jones William and D. S. Mitchell

Massive protests 

Alexi Navalny is a pain in Putin’s side.  Allies of the Russian dissident began protests April 21st, 2021, demanding Putin’s most vocal critic receive proper hospital care. People despite government crackdowns on protests showed up in large numbers.  Many supporters believe only mass protests can save Alexi’s life and many people are willing to risk imprisonment and harassment by the police.

Alexi Navalny Today

Alexi Navalny was arrested the day he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for what appeared to have been a nerve agent poisoning.  During this most recent imprisonment, on March 31st, 2021, Navalny went on a hunger strike, demanding proper medical treatment for loss of sensations in his hands and legs and severe back pain.

Deteriorating

Recent news reports indicate an electrolyte imbalance. His high potassium levels increase his risk for a cardiac arrhythmia. His personal physician pleaded that Navalny should be moved to an intensive care unit because of his deteriorating condition.  Navalny also risks severe renal impairment.  Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said her husband’s weight is down to 167 lbs from 187 lbs when he started the hunger strike at the end of March.

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Alexi Navalny: Enemy of the Rogue State

Alexi Navalny: A Thorn In Putin’s Side

Putin has political opponents he just doesn't care how he silences them

Alexi Navalny:

ENEMY OF THE ROGUE STATE

By Trevor K. McNeil

 

Rebel Roots

No nation has ever been completely peaceful, no matter what some might like to claim. As though in a self-aware correction to this, some don’t even bother to try and appear civilized, such as the Mongols or the Spartans. Others go through periods of stability, though the next invasion, rebellion, conquest or border war isn’t a matter of if, but when.

On a Reverse Trajectory

One of the main perpetrators of the meat-grinder of Europe was Russia or, as it was known for the majority of the century, the Soviet Union. That doesn’t mean the Czarist period was a picnic, either. Under the czars, someone was always fighting or planning to fight, someone else. Even during the days  of the purges, the threat of being purged surely was enough to make a lot of people angry. Russia, is a direct rebuke to the notion of history progressing in a linear trajectory.  Putin’s Russia more closely resembles 1961 than the first attempts at democratization in 1991. If anything they are moving backwards. Now, as then, there are those opposing the government, often at risk to their lives by way of assassination by the state. One such death-defying rebel is Alexi Navalny.

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Part VII: Behind The Curtain

Part VII: Behind The Curtain

D. S. Mitchell

At the end of Part VI it was January 11th and Donald Trump was holding his first press conference since his Electoral College win. Trump stood to one side of the stage, flanked by Donald Jr 39, Ivanka 35, and Eric 33, listening to his tax attorney, Sheri Dillon explain to the audience of reporters and staff, the changes that were being made to the Trump Organization.

The stage with a center podium was decorated with solemn dark blue drapes and a row of American flags with long gold tassels giving the event a sober tone. On a black shrouded table, to the left of where Dillon stood at the podium, were stacks of manila folders. The stacks were impressively high. Pointing to the stacks of folders, Dillon claimed they were filled with 1000’s of documents proving that Trump was re-arranging his empire to satisfy the growing chorus of critics.

Dillon claimed the Trump “business empire” was “massive”. She emphasized massive several times. A couple of times Dillon tried to draw a correlation between Trump and former Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller as she talked about the changes being made at the Trump Organization. Evidently, she did not know that Rockefeller had released his tax returns and later offered to place his sizeable assets in a blind trust. Neither of which Trump has offered to do.

“The plan” was, according to Dillon, to put the Trump Organization into a trust to be managed by his sons and a long time executive. She emphasized that there would be no more foreign deals, an ethics advisor would be chosen and lastly, Donald Trump would have no involvement in the business. It quickly became clear that Trump was not going to sell his business or put those assets in a blind trust, or release his tax returns.

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Heated Words Intensify North Korea Situation

Heated Words Intensify North Korea Situation

D. S. Mitchell

At his Bedminster N.J. golf club, on a scheduled “working vacation” Trump was questioned by reporters. Trump seemed willing to talk and answered questions freely in an unscheduled “press conference.”  Trump’s first and last solo press conference was on February 16, 2017.

Facing growing nuclear threat from North Korea the president was quick to warn the Kim Jong-Un regime against any further provocations, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the U.S.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen before.”

His inflammatory words rattled the international community.   Trump’s words came after the Washington Post released a story detailing the assertion of at least one U.S. intelligence agency that North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead that can be attached to missiles, expanding the range and power of the North Korean military.

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I’d Call That Annoying

I’d Call That Annoying

D. S. Mitchell

Calamity Politics is a Progressive political blog where I try to go with the facts, not just my feelings. The headline news is looking really bad right now for Jared Kushner, but those of us at Calamity Politics, we will wait and watch as this new angle on the 2016 Russian Trump collusion investigation continues to suck all the oxygen out of the room.

In another life I was a real estate investor, not on a Donald Trump scale, but bigger than many. What I do know, is that there is a component of risk in real estate. An edgy excitement. Chasing the prey, cornering the prey, teasing the prey and then; maybe, purchasing ‘the prey’.

I can see Kushner being one of those guys, who like to walk the edge. The risk, part of the reward is that zing of power you feel when you conquer the risk. I have found that most real estate investors like the risk, as much as anything. It’s a weird hybrid gambling addiction. I have recovered, however. I am so done with real estate.

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WEST WING WARFARE

West Wing Warfare

D. S. Mitchell

Staff Shuffling

The Daily Beast reports this week that political warfare has indeed broken out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Reports from the White House indicate they are undertaking a major reshuffling of staff. Steve Bannon seems to be the center of most conversation. Over the weekend Steve Bannon was fired from the National Security Council. To date, Bannon continues as Chief Strategist to the President.

McMaster Rejects politicization

There are signs that there are deep divisions in the West Wing. General H.R. McMaster seems to be asserting control over the NSC and solidifying his relationship with President Trump. McMaster is adamant that there is not going to be a politicization of NSC as long as he is at its head. The appointment of Bannon to the NSC had drawn criticism as inappropriate.

Nunes At The Center

The firestorm began when it was learned that 3 NSC officials have been linked to the distribution of classified documents to Devin Nunes. Nunes, a Republican is the Chairman of the House committee investigating Russia and the Trump 2016 campaign. The Chairman is now under ethics investigation for his conduct in the Russia probe. The discovery of the leaks to Nunes has created an earthquake within the administration. There has been fiery accusations against Bannon. Steve Bannon is suspected of releasing documents to Devin Nunes.  The intent attributed to Bannon was to deflect attention away from the Russian “collusion” investigation.

Reliable Sources

Furthermore, reliable sources indicate that Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are at each other’s throats. Kushner apparently drew Bannon’s wrath when he spoke against separating children from their parents at immigrant internment camps. Kushner’s sentiments caused Bannon to label him a “left-wing radical.” Not terms that this Republican administration wants thrown around.  Bannon and other right-wing idealogues are signaling open fear that Trump may be leaning toward what they consider the more liberal influence of his son-in-law.

Talk Radio

Mark Levin, is a right-wing radio host. On his Wednesday night show he said the liberals in the administration are trying to increase their influence over Trump.  He was pointing to Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, and Dina Powell.  Roger Stone, a long time gadfly and right-wing operative stoked the political warfare. He told “InfoWars” firebrand Alex Jones, that the leaks from the White House were coming directly from Kushner. In fact, Stone accused Kushner of feeding morning TV host Joe Scarborough insider information.

Name Calling

Bannon has called Kushner a “cuck” (cuckservative) “globalist” and “worse than a Democrat”. Reports suggest that Bannon worries that he is slipping in favor and that Jared Kushner is increasingly more important as an advisor to the president. Bannon has a vision to de-construct the government and he see’s Kushner as an impediment to the realization of that dream.

McMaster Tightens Control

As McMaster tightens his control at the NSC, Deputy NSC advisor K.T. McFarland was asked to step down. K.T. was at NSC for only 3 months. McFarland had been appointed to the NSC by Mike Flynn. K.T. is a political commentator and author. McFarland will be assigned as the Singapore Ambassador if she is able to clear Senate confirmation.

Waiting For The Crash

As fast as things happen in this White House we will probably watch it all play out on the political talk shows, next week. As such, I’m here in the CNP office waiting for the sound of crashing metal and glass. My hope is that, after the crash, the American people still have a political system they can count on. I guess, we will just have to wait, and see.

Join the Resistance

Tillerson’s Big Lie

Tillerson’s Big Lie

D. S. Mitchell

Morning Cable

I just watched Christine Romans, on ‘New Day,’ a morning political cable news show on CNN. I like her style, she really knows how to put her guests on the hot seat. Her questions are pointed and intuitive. Sometimes I feel sorry for the guests. LOL. I used to start my morning’s with ‘Morning Joe,” he comes on at 0300 her in the West. But recently Scarborough’s poorly veiled support of Trump is a turn off. If it wasn’t for Mika Brzezinski, I would have turned to ‘New Day’ a lot sooner. After watching New Day I have a choice of half a dozen activities. I either walk, bike or swim for an hour. Next, I grab breakfast. Then I go start research for a new blog post.

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