Tech, Now + Beyond

Russian hackers might be the biggest threat to America now

It's a big deal that a foreign nation might be influencing U.S. politics, but it's an even bigger deal because U.S.-Russian relations haven't been the greatest of late.

If you’ve been following the election, you know that there have been a few hacks (including the big one against the Democratic National Committee) and some hints at Russian involvement. You may even remember last July when Donald Trump dared Russian hackers to try and break into Hillary Clinton’s private server. But you probably didn’t expect the U.S. government to publicly call out Russia (we know we didn’t).

After months of suspicious information leaks, this past Friday, the U.S. government accused Russia of cyber attacks intended to influence the election.

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A statement released by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence very directly accuses Russia: “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

In response, Russian officials have rejected claims that their government is at fault for these hacks. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov commented on his department’s website that: “This whipping up of emotions regarding ‘Russian hackers’ is used in the U.S. election campaign, and the current U.S. administration, taking part in this fight, is not averse to using dirty tricks.”

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If you’re asking yourself why the U.S. government is concerned enough about these hacks to publicly condone the Russian state, hang on, we’ll explain:

It’s a pretty big deal that a foreign nation might be trying to influence U.S. politics (I mean, that’s not good in anyone’s world). But it’s an even bigger deal, because U.S.-Russian relations haven’t been the greatest of late.

Another heated topic of conversation during presidential debates is, of course, Syria. Clinton and Trump disagreed over Syrian policy for many reasons (of course), but one of those central concerns was (unsurprisingly) Russia.

The U.S. and Russia have gone head-to-head over support of the Syrian state and its people over the last several months. Tensions rose this past month in particular as the U.S. and Russia agreed to a cease fire which ended abruptly with worsened attacks. To many, Syria has felt uncomfortably like a proxy war with Russia backing the Syrian state and the U.S. supporting Syrian rebels as the two sides fight out their political views over innocent civilians.

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This past Friday, (as the U.S. released statements accusing Russia of cyber attacks) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Russian actions in the Syrian civil war “beg for” a war crimes investigation. That’s what we like to call a double whammy.

That’s not to mention the reports that Russia has moved short-range nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad or the likelihood that Russia has supported WikiLeaks members in releasing more leaked emails from Clinton.

The announcement just formalized what many already knew: Cold War-era tensions are on the rise once again.