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‘A Cyber Pearl Harbor’: Putin’s Secret Plan To Defeat America

Fears of a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that have been pre-occupying US cybersecurity experts for years have become especially acute, as Putin raises the ante in a potential deadly showdown with the US over Ukraine. Last week, Homeland Security alerted Americans that Putin is readying a cyber strike on US homeland. The potential non-kinetic attack may, as the DHS advisory warned, cause disruptions to public safety. Here’s why the Kremlin chose a cyber-strike to signal to Washington, to stay out of Ukraine, on which Putin wants to impose his version of the Monroe Doctrine.

Russia believes cyber warfare is an effective way to weaken the Americans’ will to support their leaders decisions to intervene in conflicts on Russia’s periphery. On his orders, Putin’s strategists developed a sophisticated doctrine called “information confrontation” (информационное  противоборство). This concept envisions a combination of technical cyber intrusions into the adversary’s computer systems — with the intent to disrupt operations, steal secrets, and corrupt or destroy data — and disinformation intended to manipulate the population’s opinion. Moscow believes cyber can serve as a potent non-kinetic tool that can be used to destabilize an opponent’s society, without triggering his military response, and also as a weapon, capable of plunging an entire country into darkness, whenwar is unavoidable.

Consider this quote by Major General Igor Dylevsky, the leading expert on cyber warfare in Russia’s General Staff“By inserting disinformation in publications, advocating extremist ideas, inciting racist and xenophobic flashmobs, conducting interstate computer attacks on the critical infrastructure targets that are vital for the functioning of a society, it is possible to ‘heat up’ the situation in any country, all the way up to the point of social unrest.” Speaking at the Sixth Moscow Conference on International Security, Dylevski pointed to the unique nature of information weapons because they are “bloodless” and “don’t destroy the environment,” capable of delivering a “blow to the adversary” through such peaceful channels as the internet, telecommunications networks, and mass media.”

Russia has the most sophisticated and destructive arsenal of cyber weapons of any foreign nation. It rivals only that of American cyber warriors. The Russians are very fast, stealthy, when they choose to be, creative, superior in programming power and can burrow so deeply into the opponents systems that it’s next to impossible to kick them out. Putin ultimately controls this capability that his war planners view as strategic, comparable to nuclear weapons  because of the destructive effect they can produce on the adversary’s military, economy, vital support structures such as hospitals, as well as the popular psyche. This is employment of what Russia calls “information weapons,” especially in high-stakes operations, such those that target US elections, requires Putin’s authorization, as Russia’s Commander-in-Chief.

Russia has been waging war on US networks and American minds for decades, stealing secrets, mapping out access to our critical infrastructure in the event of war — which Moscow believes is inevitable in the long-term – and signaling to US leaders its displeasure with US policy impacting Russia. Since the first known Russian cyber operation, “Moonlight Maze,” that targeted US systems over many years, the Russians have penetrated every major US government agency — to include the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House — and scores of US businesses, organizations and think tanks. Vast amounts of critical, secret data have been stolen from our military, government, and civilian networks. At one point, Russian “Kaspersky Lab” anti-virus software, developed by a firm owned by a former KGB officer, was running on many US government’s computers. Former president Trump signed a law that banned the use of Kaspersky software by federal agencies.

Having faced no meaningful pushback to its cyber-bullying in almost 30 years or to other violations, like the invasion of Georgia and Crimea, it is not by chance, that Russia feels that it can outmaneuver US leaders and — if we try to undo Putin’s Playbook — to defeat America in a “new generation” cyber warfare. Unleashing Cyber Armageddon on America would be Putin’s last ditch effort, if he thought that  US troops were about to flood into Ukraine to bloody his nose. Regretfully, Joe Biden’s “experts,” just like Obama’s and their predecessors’, failed to develop a viable deterrence strategy to counter Putin’s cyber warfare and protect Americans, beyond calling the Russian KGB spy master a “killer.”

Rebekah Koffler is a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and currently a strategic intelligence analyst with The Lindsey Group. She is the author of  “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.”

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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