Word came out Friday from the Justice Department that Russians are engaged in a campaign of information warfare aimed at disrupting the midterm elections As Texans line up at early-voting places, the U.S. is fighting back. The effort is being described as the Pentagon’s first ever cyber operation aimed at disrupting the Russian disrupters; much of the cyberwar operation is based out of Fort Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force has a combat-ready cyber ops wing at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
We don’t yet know who or what service components are involved, but Julian Barnes, a national security writer for The New York Times, says the Pentagon’s plan is to warn Russians intending to spread disinformation that the U.S. is watching.
“The U.S. Cyber Command has begun a direct messaging campaign,” Barnes says.
Messages are being sent, by means the Pentagon won’t disclose, to Russians who are suspected of planning disinformation efforts.
“These are people who are spreading disinformation, who are putting propaganda out there in the United States,” Barnes says.
Experts Barnes spoke to say the fact that U.S. officials have identified individuals spreading disinformation means those Russians could be sanctioned, or become the subject of a criminal complaint.
Barnes says the U.S. actions show a degree of restraint.
“Outside experts have said, ‘Why not take out their computers? How about melt their hard drive,'” he says.
Barnes says past aggressive cyber operations against the Islamic State group, for example, were not completely successful. Additionally, the U.S. Cyber Command is concerned about escalating the battle between the U.S. and Russian election attackers.
“They do not want to get in a position where they, say, do an offensive cyber operation that immediately causes Russia to respond even more strongly in the United States or Europe, or in a whole different sphere,” Barnes says.
Barnes says intelligence officials have told him that Russia has continued the kinds of disinformation efforts it practiced during the 2016 election. So far, officials tell him, it has not made new attempts to hack into voting machines, or change actual election results.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.