Limits to Response

Massive Hack Blamed on Russia Tests Limits of US Response is the headline of a Wall Street Journal piece on the Russian hack of our government and some infrastructure facilities.

Despite its size, a sprawling computer hack blamed on Russia could leave President Trump and the incoming Biden administration struggling to find the right response, former US cybersecurity officials and experts said.

The Russian hack was an overt invasion of the United Space, just as much in cyber space as it would have been had it occurred in physical space. The only limits on our response—the only real limits—are our capacity to respond, and the mindsets of those with the authority to order the response.

Capacity includes our shamefully limited cyber capability coupled with the much lower degree of Russia’s dependence on cyber in its various facilities (military, political, economic).

Capacity also includes, though, political, economic, and physical response venues.

This attack badly wants a more prompt response than economic sanctions are capable of effecting.

 “It’s a hack. It’s a breach. It’s espionage. It’s not an attack,” said former White House and Justice Department official Jamil Jaffer, executive director of George Mason University’s National Security Institute. “I don’t think some major offensive response is warranted based on what we know now.”


…the former officials said the intrusions fell more along the lines of classic digital espionage, however brazen.

This insistence on downplaying the severity of an invasion is a major player in our vulnerability to such attacks is an illustration of the weakness of the mindsets involved, for all that Jaffer is not one of those charged with the responsibility. It increases our vulnerability to physical attack.

There needs to come an end to mental weakness, idle chit-chat, and vapid responses and to get serious about such invasions.


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