Biden was presented with the options of massive cyberattacks on Russia

There are many options available, including disrupting internet access across Russia, cutting off power and stopping trains from running.

Biden was presented with the options of massive cyberattacks on Russia

Four people familiar with the discussions tell NBC News that President Joe Biden was presented with a range of options to the U.S. in order to launch massive cyberattacks to undermine Russia's ability to sustain its military operation in Ukraine.

One U.S. intelligence official, and one Western intelligence officer briefed on this matter, say that no final decisions have been made. However, they claim U.S. intelligence, and military cyber warriors, are proposing the use American cyberweapons at a scale never imagined. Three sources claimed that there are three options available to Russia to disrupt its internet connectivity Russia. They also suggested shutting down electric power and altering railroad switches to prevent it from resupplying its troops.


 

One person briefed said that "you could do everything, from slowing down trains to having them fall off the tracks."

Sources said that the options include pre-emptive actions in response to Russia's invasion and occupation of Ukraine. This is regardless of whether Russia launches its own cyberattacks against the U.S. as a retaliation for the sanctions. According to them, most cyberattacks that could be launched against Russia are intended to disrupt but not degrade and thus do not constitute an act of war on Russia. They claim the goal is to damage networks and not people. Officials are arguing about the legal authority under which attacks could be carried out -- whether it would be clandestine or covert military action. Sources say that the U.S. will not publicly admit to the operation. Sources said that U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency would play a part in the operation, as would the CIA and other agencies.

One U.S. official stated that "our response will be harsh, measured, but not too severe to encourage Putin to make more drastic steps."

Initial requests for comment were not answered by the White House. Emily Horne, spokesperson for the National Security Council, stated in a statement that "this report is wildly out of base and doesn't reflect what actually being discussed in any form."

According to the person briefed, there is a clear divide in the U.S. government with one side fearful that things will escalate and the other calling for a strong cyber response.

Cyberweapons being used to retaliate against the Russian invasion in Ukraine would mark a significant turning point for U.S. cybersecurity operations. These operations have mainly been focused on intelligence gathering, information operations, and targeted strikes, many of which are for counterterrorism. The Stuxnet attack against the Iranian nuclear program between 2007 and 2010 is the most notable use of American cyber capabilities. It used computer malware to cause severe physical damage.

Experts say that the U.S. has been setting the foundation for cyber operations against Russia and China for many years. These countries have done the exact same thing with American infrastructure networks.

James Lewis, a cyber expert from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated that "Cyberweapons will be used in ways we haven’t used other weapons." It gives us options that we didn't have previously.
Officials stress that Biden has many options, which can cause minor disruptions or even major disruptions. Sources say that the U.S. anticipates Russia will respond with Colonial Pipeline-style attacks to harm American consumers.

One U.S. official stated that "Anything they can do for them, they can do for us."

Experts believe that there is a high risk of escalation.

Dmitri Aloperovitch, a Silverado Policy Accelerator cybersecurity expert, said that the last thing we want is a cyber tit between the U.S.A and Russia to see which can destroy each other's critical infrastructure. It is "horribly escalatory," can have disastrous impacts on our security and could lead to war.

John Cofrancesco, a cyber expert, said that a "digital 911" is unlikely but that Russia would likely make "very strategic attacks against our infrastructure that affect everyday Americans" like raising gas prices. This is Russian standard operating procedure.

Cofrancesco, vice president of government at Fortress Information Security, stated that cyberweapons should be treated as weapons. "They can attack us at home, and we must be ready for it."

According to a Western intelligence official, U.S. cyber strategies will be guided by ethics and proportionality, keeping in mind civilian collateral damage. The U.S. does not have a war against Russia.

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