It is 2016 and the opening salvos of a new kind of war have been fired… a cyber war.
In order to understand why I think we are in the opening rounds of a cyber war, I have to back up a bit to help you understand the players. At the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama presidency, a cyber weapon had been deployed in Iran to disrupt their production of weapons grade Uranium. An incredibly well written piece of malware (later to become known as Stuxnet) was causing Iranian centrifuges to randomly spin at rates that would cause the device to self destruct. This continued to happen for roughly a year and a half before the malware was eventually discovered by Iranian engineers. Somehow that malware got into the wild and was analyzed. The software was well designed, many hours and millions of dollars were clearly spent on it, and it worked well. The theory at the time was that it was developed by the NSA with possible assistance from Israeli intelligence. The US portion of this group became known as the Equation Group. Following Stuxnet, similar pieces of malware with similar fingerprints began popping up around the globe… all of them crafted with the same high degree of skill, and later attributed to the Equation Group. These guy were the mythical Top Gun badasses of the cyber world, their skills and expensive tools are the stuff of legend.
Not to be outdone by the US, Russia has it’s own teams of cyber special operators. It isn’t clear at this point if the Russians are running a unified front, or more likely have a collection of several elite hacking teams working for different agencies. Regardless, their hacks are equally as beautiful and effective as their counterparts in the NSA.
Over the past year, leaks from within the US, point to the probability that possibly 2 of these Russian hacking teams infiltrated the networks of the DNC, and the DCCC. As the US election heated up, and the intrusions were discovered, those teams began to leak data from their hacks that they hoped would interfere with the election. Make no mistake, these are the first rounds fired it what is sure to escalate very quickly… and escalate it did.
In the last two days, a previously unknown group of hackers know as ShadowBrokers posted a cache of code and software online. That software bares the unmistakeable signatures of the Equation Group. Furthermore, the software released appears to be the very tools the Equation Group uses to infiltrate it’s enemies. This is the equivalent of a foreign army stealing not just a single nuclear weapon, but a copy of each weapon in your most secure arsenal. In short, this is VERY BAD for the NSA. It stands to reason, though I caution isn’t proven, that Russia is behind this latest hack as well. Undoubtedly this very question is being answered by the NSA’s teams of keyboard warriors as I type.
IF it does turn out to be Russia, the question that comes to my mind is, what’s next? From a political standpoint, the US can’t let this stand and will retaliate in some equivalent or possibly greater attack in an attempt to deter further hacks.
Stay tuned folks… this is going to get very interesting in the coming weeks. I’ll do my best to update things as they progress.
Update: It appears that Edward Snowden may agree with me here…