As the Russian government considers new measures to prevent its vulnerability to cyberattack, the Pentagon is starting to recover from just such an attack by its Cold War opponent. Although it has not been confirmed to have been ordered by the upper levels of the Russian government, the attack on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff unclassified email system resulted in a two week shutdown. No classified information was compromised in the attack, but sources say that the scale and sophistication of the attack point to the work of a “state actor.”
The seriousness of the attack does not match that of a prior attack this year, which succeeded in compromising sensitive details about President Obama’s schedule. Such information is non-public and the breach was investigated by the FBI, Secret Service, and other intelligence agencies.
As cyberattacks become more prevalent, it may help to keep in the public consciousness the poor security practices of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, during her time as Secretary of State. She is now facing an FBI investigation into her use of a private email server to conduct State Department business.
The ongoing attacks by Russia led Director of National Intelligence Jake Clapper to state in Febuary that, “the Russian cyberthreat is more dangerous than we have previously believed.” Such Russian-led attacks on the U.S. add one more item to the list of disagreements between the two countries, from weapons for Syria, to annexation and invasion of Ukraine territory.
As world tensions continue to rise, the potential for armed conflict between nations rises as well. Whether or not more nations will get into shooting wars is uncertain, but cyberwarfare at present remains a constant, in part due to the difficulty of proving that an attack was the action of an outside government. With the potential for cyberattack to damage critical infrastructure a real possibility, it seems to be only a matter of time before such attacks lead to armed conflicts.