EU & US Must Declare Russia’s Cyber-Attacks Acts of War

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Warfare has many forms. In its most crude form, we tend to think of bombs killing innocent civilians, pilots engaging in gravity defying gun battles, troops being gassed in their trenches and snipers in clock towers. But war also means shutting down your enemy’s transportation, banking and media systems. To win you must acquire and control their food, water and medical supplies. Propaganda and disinformation are as important as bullets and knives. Sowing the seeds of discontent and rebellion within populations is mandatory if you wish to succeed.

Yes, we are at war.

The hacking of our 2016 election may have been the United States’ introduction to the Russian cyber war but Europe has long been Putin’s testing ground. For over a decade now, Russia has been at war with the European Union (EU). Without using any troops, tanks, airplanes, bombs or missiles, Russia has managed to invade and commit acts of war against any country that promotes democratic ideals. His goal is to diminish the power and influence that western countries have had over the world. Led by the narcissistic former KGB agent, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has successfully and systematically attacked country after country with very little, if any, consequences for its aggressive actions.

EU Countries Cyber-Invaded by the Kremlin

The list of EU countries that have had their computer systems hacked by Russia is long: Britain (before and after Brexit), France, Italy, Germany, Estonia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and many more. Year after year, Russia has gradually built and weaponized their computer hackers to cripple foreign economies, sway elections and steal state secrets.

They may not wear a Russian military uniform, but they are Russian soldiers nonetheless.

The data on these operations is incomplete at best. Many countries do not want to publicly admit just how vulnerable their systems are. Others have yet to discover the Russian bugs. Each attack serves to further educate Russian cyber troops on how to better invade the next adversary.

As far back as 2007, Russia cyber-attacked Estonia. Hackers were able to steal documents and data from the president’s office, parliament, the government ministries, political parties, news organizations, banks, and Estonian communication firms. In 2009, Poland’s government agencies had dozens of official email passwords stolen by Russian hackers. As they succeeded, their confidence grew.

Like the U.S., EU countries discovered that Russia not only stole their data, but were actively attempting to affect the outcome of their elections. England’s Brexit election is the most notorious but others include: France’s 2017 presidential election, Germany’s 2017 election, Bulgaria’s 2015 local elections and the Netherlands‘ 2017 elections.

Ukraine and Georgia

Whether or not Putin aims to physically invade these EU countries is anyone’s guess, but history is not on the EU’s side. Before he decided to invade Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet satellites, Putin launched a full scale cyber war on them.

On July 20, 2008, just a few weeks before Russian troops attacked, Georgian government websites were shut down by Russian hackers. The goal was to limit the ability of Georgians to defend themselves, to cause mass confusion. Communications, media, transportation and banking systems were shut down by Russian hackers. Georgia was crippled without a single bomb dropped or gun fired. Russia further shut down neighboring countries’ news agencies in an attempt to keep the reports of their war crimes a secret.

Ukraine is the canary in the coal mine in this new war. Putin’s hackers have been consistently striking Ukraine’s government agencies since 2010. From 2014 to 2016, they were able to destroy 80% of Ukraine’s D-30 Howitzers and 50% of other artillery by using malware to infect and transmit their locations to Russian troops. Additionally, Ukrainian citizens have seen their power systems attacked and shut down continuously for years.

Putin has committed war crimes in the Crimea killing over 10,090 people since April of 2014. As of June 2017, over 2,777 civilians have died and an estimated 23,966 have been injured. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are trapped in the war zones without food, water or medical supplies.

As if any of this weren’t enough, Putin also used right wing media outlets in the Crimea to spread his propaganda and turn many Ukrainians into rebels for his cause. So, not only are Ukraine’s citizens dealing with transportation, banking and power shut downs, but Russian troops have invaded and there is a percentage of the population engaging in civil war. Should Putin win, he will control the vast oil and gas resources of the Crimea and have access to the Black Sea, a strategic necessity to overthrow the EU.

We Must Recognize Russia has Declared War

To date, the EU has done little to stop or punish Russia for its crimes. Just like the U.S., they appear reluctant to declare Putin’s actions to be acts of war. But Russia is not merely stealing data or trying to influence leaders to join their agenda. When they use cyber warfare to shut down transportation, banking, power, food and water resources, that is the equivalent to bombing those systems and institutions. When Putin affects the outcome of elections and has his troops hack election systems, that is an act of war.

It is past time for America, the EU and NATO to declare this a war. Something more than sanctions and finger waving must be done. Seeing as how Trump is too busy benefiting from Putin’s war crimes and fighting with CNN, the U.S. Congress must take the lead to protect our democracy.

Why is Russia Helping Republicans Win Elections?

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Another week in the Trump administration, another shit storm of news.

Republicans were busy redistributing wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy by taking healthcare away from millions of Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was preoccupied creating memorable optics with ordering Capitol Hill police to forcibly remove disabled wheelchair-bound protesters from the building’s hallways. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was desperately trying to get reporters to listen to his talking points about some veterans’ bill that nobody’s heard of or seemed to care about. Donald Trump’s baby sitters held a rally to encourage him and remind him of the good ‘ole days. Because they won’t take responsibility for their failure, Bernie bros were attacking Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi because their Hillary attacks no longer get them any press. And once again, Donald Trump made false allegations in an attempt to intimidate a government witness and wasted everyone’s time.

Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that Russia not only hacked the DNC, but they actually hacked some of the voter systems in 21 states, likely affecting the actual vote totals of the 2016 presidential race.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Since the Russian hacking of the DNC was reported, there have been rumors circulating about the possibility of individual state and county voter systems and rolls being hacked. The denials of both stories followed the same pattern: deny the rumor, admit some of the reports once they become undeniable and then finally ignore the subject and pretend it never happened even though it’s been proven without a doubt. It’s all a narcissistic way of rewriting the past to be whatever you need it to be, leaving some people to wonder if it really happened at all.

Which if you think about it, that is the modus operandi of the Trump administration and Trump himself. Take the Republican platform: rumors were that Trump campaign officials changed the terms to be kinder to Russia than the Ukraine. They denied it, then admitted than someone (not them) did change it and then finally they admitted to doing it and even admitted that Trump himself said to do it but then refused to talk about it. Or take the whole Flynn fiasco: denied the rumors that he had Russian connections, admitted a few connections but claimed they were innocent and then sort of gave in and admitted that yes Flynn did do all those treasonous acts he’s accused of but he was actually fired for lying to Mike Pence. One more: they denied that Trump told Russian officials top secret information during their White House meeting, then Trump the next day admitted to disclosing the information thus damaging relations with our allies and now refuses to talk about it as if it never happened.

Maybe I’m just cynical, but this leaves me with little hope for an answer or even a solution for this new problem.

As McClatchy reported early this week, state government officials were warned by the Obama administration about the likelihood that their voting systems had been compromised. Yet for months, these state officials denied any evidence of Russian hacking and some even refused the help offered by the administration.

Only now have we started to see reports in the press that those rumors were true. Some state officials have come forward and testified before congress that yes, in fact, it was true: hackers were able to break into their state and county voting records and change voter data in Illinois. In Durham, North Carolina, Russian hacking is thought to have succeeded in making it impossible for poll workers to access the voter rolls during the 2016 election. Workers were forced to verify voter registrations by hand using a paper copy, which took more time and created long lines. Many voters reported giving up and leaving the polls without voting which would actually change the vote count.

Currently, no state or county is admitting that the vote totals were changed or that it could have changed the outcome. However, voter system experts have commented that many systems have either not been audited or cannot be audited, and therefore it is entirely possible that some Clinton votes were turned into Trump votes. Of more concern is that in every district where this hacking occurred, those voters who were kicked off the rolls were most likely to be Democrats. Those counties that found Russian IP addresses in their systems were districts where registered Democrats outnumbered the Republicans.

Time is now reporting that Mueller is now looking into whether or not the Trump campaign may have benefitted from these hackings. The House Intelligence Committee wants to speak with Trump’s digital director, Brad Parscale. Perhaps this is the part where they admit the facts before they swear us all to never speak of their shame again. Who knows?

To date, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show has done the most in-depth reporting. It’s highly likely that government officials will continue to try and downplay the affects this Russian hacking had on the 2016 election. To admit such a breach of our security would be an indictment on both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ failure to keep our country’s election systems safe from foreign enemies. At the same time, it would call into question every single midterm election that has and will take place since districts are still using those same hacked systems.

With very few outlets investigating this, expect some more admissions of voting system breaches and then silence on the part of our elected officials. Elected officials have given us no reason to hope that they would do the right thing, as they’ve tried their best to ignore the situation. Hopefully they will at least fix the system. Most likely, we will never know why Russians were helping Republicans win elections or if Republicans were in on it.