How US aggressively flexed its cyber warfare powers under Trump
Published: 12:10 PM, 27 June 2019
The United States has markedly ramped up the number of offensive cyberattacks it launches under the presidency of Donald Trump, including strikes on Iranian targets and malicious code deployed on an electrical power grid in Russia.
Placement of potentially crippling malware code deep inside computer networks vital to core infrastructure of its adversaries allows the US to conduct cyberattacks if a conflict arises.
According to an NBC report which cited unnamed insiders, the US military has launched more cyber operations in the first two years of the Trump administration than it did in eight years under Barack Obama.
Greg Austin, professor of cybersecurity, strategy and diplomacy at the University of New South Wales, told nine.com.au that since 2018 the US had noticeably upped its cyber warfare offensive operations.
Elite cyber units in the NSA now have a mandate to "explicitly punish" countries who attack the US, Professor Austin said. The US had shifted course by making a point of announcing who it had attacked, he added.
"The US has a list of four countries which are the target of this persistent cyber deterrence initiative, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran."
Last week the US declared it had launched cyber strikes on targets in Iran, after Iranian forces allegedly blew up two oil tankers in the Gulf earlier this month. News of the cyberattacks came after Trump called off traditional air strikes in a dramatic last-minute decision.
"The attack in cyberspace will have done more damage to Iranian confidence than a traditional strike using bombs and missiles against hard targets," Professor Austin said.
Who is in top tier of cyber attackers?
Iran is widely viewed as being part of a global top tier of offensive cyber attackers.
However, Professor Austin said Iran, and even China, was "weak" in defending against attacks. The US has been increasingly keen over the past 18 months to exploit its advantage in this area, he added.
"The US is very strong on defence but not invulnerable.
"The bad news for the world is that defence in cyberspace is very difficult - which is why we have all these breaches."
Professor Austin said Australia, as part of the Five Eyes alliance, had "a much higher standard of cyber defence" than most other countries, who have proven to be highly adept offensively.
Earlier this month The New York Times revealed the US was escalating cyberattacks on Russia's electric power grid and had placed potentially devastating malware inside the Russian system.
In turn, US intelligence officials believe Russia may have capability to turn the lights out on important blocks of the US electrical grid through malware it has silently loaded into American networks.
The US is also known to have launched cyberattacks on North Korea's ballistic missile facilities and is believed to have been responsible for crippling an Iranian nuclear facility in 2010. -9News
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