How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.

But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.

Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.

But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.

Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.

In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.

If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.

The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.

Moscow rally 24 December 2011. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Moscow rally 24 December 2011. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”

To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.

“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”

Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Russian President Putin and former US President Obama’s relationship was contentious, to say the least. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.

Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.

The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.

TOP ARTICLES
Here is how the MLRS became a 44-mile sniper

The M31 Guided Unitary Rocket can put 200 pounds of high explosive within 30 feet of its aimpoint. That'll ruin a bad guy's day.

These 10 letters kids sent to deployed troops will make you smile

From moms who drink wine to soldier kitties saying 'meow,' these hilarious letters to troops will warm your heart.

This robotic Kobra bites IEDs and can move an NFL lineman

The life-saving bite of this Kobra isn't its only impressive feature.

This is how a dress code change won us Guadalcanal

At a critical stage in the War of the Pacific, Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey returned to action ripping open his dress shirt like a sailor Hulk.

This is how missing or captured troops get promoted

According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries.

6 reasons Charleston might be America's most gung-ho military city

From Charles Towne Landing to the Medal of Honor Museum, go grab a pint where George Washington drank and read about the military legacy of South Carolina's Atlantic jewel.

This is how long South Korea thinks it will take to conquer the North

South Korea says they are developing new plans to defend against advancing North Korean threats after a data breach left their outdated plans vulnerable.

This stunning video shows how well 100-year-old ammo works today

While original 1911 pistols surely still function today, turns out so does the ammo from that era.

This could be the Army's next rifle — and it's totally awesome

Textron debuted its newest rifle, the Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, at AUSA. It's lighter and more deadly than the current M4.

16 jokes Germans could die for telling under the Nazi regime

The Nazi Party was well short of a majority when it came to power. So it's easy to believe that not everyone was a big fan of Hitler or his ideas.