Campaigning for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections kicked off on Sept. 28, 2018, despite a wave of deadly violence across the country and allegations of fraud.
More than 2,500 people, including 418 women, are competing for the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.
Banners and posters of the candidates could be seen across the capital Kabul and other cities across the country.
The campaign period is set to finish on Oct. 18, 2018, according to a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast.
The election is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018.
The rival political parties of President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah are expected to be among the front-runners in the vote.
Most parliamentary deputies are seeking reelection. But hundreds of political first-timers — including the offspring of former warlords and journalists — are also contesting the vote.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
The election comes amid increased violence by the Taliban and the extremist group Islamic State, which have been staging frequent attacks across the country.
Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centers on election day.
More than 2,000 polling centers will be closed for security reasons.
Opposition groups and political parties have demanded biometric machines to be used for transparency and to prevent people from voting more than once.
A deputy to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that so far more than 4,000 biometric machines out of 22,000 sets have been delivered to Afghanistan.
Maozollah Dolati said more equipment will be delivered in the coming week.
He said the election body will work to deploy the machines in all voting centers.
“Afghanistan’s Election Commission will work for the elections to be held transparently and without any fraud, even if for some reason the machines won’t be transferred to some of the voting centers,” Dolati added.
Most veterans who have served in the past 20 years are probably familiar with video games. From barracks LAN parties, to marathon sessions of Madden NFL at the MWR while downrange, it’s safe to say veterans like to play video games. Studies have shown that video games also help veterans recover from some mental health challenges, providing an escape while boosting confidence, personal growth, leadership, and social connections.
Operation Supply Drop’s Games to Grunts program supports community engagement to veterans, military, and their families through video games. Most of the games they offer are on Steam, such as TEKKEN 7, Cooking Simulator, and Vietnam 65′, but other platforms are also available, like free XBOX Game Passes. All of the games are available through digital download codes.
And there are non-profit organizations like Guitars for Vets, which provides free guitar lessons — and a guitar — to veterans nationwide.
Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped over 180 veterans graduate from the program.
“Playing the guitar takes concentration, it’s a little frustrating, it’s a challenge — but when you’re doing that, everything else disappears,” Robledo told We Are The Mighty.
He has written songs about the military community, including one that helped provide solace after the loss of loved ones.
“Learning to play guitar has let me reinvent myself. My knees and back are pretty banged up, but I can still impact other peoples’ lives in a positive way,” said Peterson about how he uses music to help others.
To date, Guitars for Vets has administered over 25,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,500 guitars to Veterans, and their waiting list keeps growing, which is why We Are The Mighty has partnered up with Base*FEST powered by USAA to donate $1 (up to $10k) every time you vote for one of our veteran artists and Mission: Music finalists until Sept. 23, 2017.
Editors’s Note: Voting is now closed. We reached our goal of donating $10k to Guitars for Vets — thank you to all those who supported this program!
Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.
Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.
For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.
Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.
Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.
By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.
Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.
On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”
Video posted on YouTube and numerous social media sites appears to show a Kilo-class attack submarine in very close proximity to a raging fire with thick black smoke.
The footage was filmed in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, home of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. Five submarines and a number of vessels are seen moored in close proximity to one another. Two submarines are very close to the blaze, with the fire possibly touching at least one submarine.
The Pacific Fleet’s press service released a statement saying that the fire was part of “damage control exercises,” which seems unlikely given the intensity of the blaze.
The Kilo-class submarine is one of Russia’s main non-nuclear attack submarines. Designed and first fielded in 1980, the sub has been sold to and is used by a number of countries, including China, India, Iran, and Vietnam.
Kilo-class submarines based out of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were recently used to launch cruise missiles into Syria.
The Kilos have had a history of accidents, especially in India. In 2013, a fire erupted on the INS Sindhurakshak, which caused an explosion that killed 18 crew members and sank the sub. In 2014, a fire started on the INS Sindhuratna that killed two Indian Navy officers. That fire was blamed on malfunctioning batteries.
A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued an injured hiker at Deception Pass State Park on Oct. 21.
The SAR crew took off from NAS Whidbey Island around 5 p.m. Due to the injured hiker’s location and surrounding terrain, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue was unable to reach the man.
Upon arrival, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Siedler, a search and rescue medical technician, hoisted down to the scene and prepared the injured man for immediate extraction. The patient was transported to Island Hospital where he was delivered to a higher level of care.
This was the 35th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and 15 Medical Evacuation missions this year, totaling 64 lives delivered to a higher level of care.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.
The US military says it shot down what it called an Iranian-made, armed drone in southern Syria.
A defense official says the drone was approaching a military camp near the Syria-Jordan border. That is where US forces have been training and advising local Syrian Arabs for the fight against Islamic State militants.
The official says the drone was considered a threat, and was shot down by a US F-15 fighter jet.
The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official says the drone was a Shaheed 129 and appeared to have been operated by “pro-regime” forces.
Many veterans have a unique perspective on the state of the world — with continued deployment tempos to foreign countries (especially those impacted by conflict), our veterans are exposed to life outside the continental United States. They also work alongside our allies and build relationships with them.
On Veterans Day 2017, Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals project is launching the #WhatIFoughtFor campaign to tell the stories of U.S. veterans with deeply personal and profound connections with refugees.
Veterans have seen firsthand the devastation of war. According to #WhatIFoughtFor, “many of them have worked in communities around the world that have suffered from violence and oppression. They have even fought alongside many of these individuals as allies during wartime. They understand why refugees flee their homes, and that refugees want the same safety and opportunity for their families that we do.”
As a result, many veterans believe that commitment extends beyond their military service. Veterans for American Ideals is one such organization, and their mission is to stand with refugees, to tell their stories, and to help the American people make educated and informed decisions about America’s relationship with refugees.
According to their website, “Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of military veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals. After taking off the uniform, we seek to continue serving our country by advocating policies that are consistent with the ideals that motivated us to serve in the first place: freedom, diversity, equality, and justice. It is those same ideals that make the United States a beacon to the world’s refugees.”
The campaign chronicles seven stories of family, friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie between U.S. veterans and refugees. You can find more information about the Nov. 11, 2017 launch on Facebook or Twitter.
Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.
That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.
Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.
In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.
At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.
“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.
United States President Donald Trump.
In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.
Making the enemy less of an enemy
“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.
It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.
For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.
Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.
We don’t want to talk about Kevin
The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.
Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.
What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.
Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.
“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”
Salt on the wound
“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”
This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”
The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.
Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.
“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”
Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.
An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.
Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”
“Let Australia pay the price …”
On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.
“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”
The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”
“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”
However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.
According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”
“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.
A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation
Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.
Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.
“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.
Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.
But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.
First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.
It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.
Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.
But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…
Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.
While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.
Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.
You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Erik Cardenas
A 19-year-old participant in Iran’s recent street protests says that while the wave of public demonstrations has subsided, the antiestablishment unrest in December and early January opened many Iranians’ eyes and the underlying anger remains.
“Nothing [the authorities] do will decrease people’s anger and frustration,” Hadi, the son of a working-class family in the northwestern city of Tabriz, told RFE/RL.
Tabriz is one of more than 90 cities and towns where protests were unleashed after a Dec. 28 demonstration in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances.
At least 22 people are thought to have been killed in the unrest, which targeted government policies but also featured chants against Iran’s clerically dominated system and attacks on police and other official institutions.
The demonstrations have tapered off in the past week amid a pushback by authorities that included harsh warnings and a conspicuous show of force by security troops, the blocking of Internet access and social media, and reports of three deaths in custody and thousands of arrests.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have blamed the flare-up on foreign “enemies.”
But President Hassan Rohani took a different tack, leaving open the possibility of foreign influence but adding, “We can’t say that whoever who has taken to the street has orders from other countries.” Rohani acknowledged that “people had economic, political, and social demands” and said Iranians “have a legitimate right to demand that we see and hear them and look into their demands.”
Iranian officials were said to have eased some of the price increases stoking some of the protests.
Won’t get ‘fooled’ again
Hadi, who asked RFE/RL not to publish his last name, dismissed that and other steps as mere attempts to ward off public anger in the short term and said he thought such tactics have lost their effectiveness.
“They may decrease the price of eggs, thinking that they can fool people. But people are now very much aware,” Hadi said.
Hadi talked of his own frustration at being accepted into Iran’s Islamic Azad University but being unable to afford the school’s fees.
“My father says [Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] promised that we won’t even pay for water, [that revolutionaries] said they would give everyone free housing,” he said, adding that four decades later many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.
Hadi said he and dozens of others took to the streets of Tabriz to complain of high prices, poverty, and repression in a country where he says authorities “bully” citizens.
The protests, Iran’s largest since a disputed election sent millions into the streets in 2009, were initially fueled by economic grievances and mostly young citizens frustrated by an ailing economy and a potentially bleak future.
Some Iranians envisaged rising prosperity two years after an international deal traded sanctions relief for checks on Tehran’s nuclear program, and Rohani campaigned for election in 2013 and reelection last year pledging mild reforms and more jobs.
Angry young men
A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named attributed the protests to “angry young men” disappointed by reformists and conservatives, with no hope in the future.
“They have nothing to lose,” said the reporter, who had witnessed several protests in the Iranian capital.
The demonstrations morphed quickly into protests against the clerical establishment and the country’s leaders. Protesters called for an “Iranian republic” instead of an “Islamic republic,” while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should “get lost.”
Many demonstrators also complained of Iran’s actions in the Middle East, including its military and other support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aid to militants in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. They said Tehran should instead focus its resources on Iranians.
“Where in the world does a government spend its money on another country?” Hadi said. “[Assad] supports Iran because he is investing Iran’s money in his country.”
Hadi said he was frustrated at Rohani for abandoning social and economic promises: “He should take action, not just talk. He made many promises four years ago, but he hasn’t achieved them.”
But Hadi primarily blamed Khamenei — who, as supreme leader, holds the final word on religious and political affairs in Iran — for the state of affairs in the country, including the ailing economy and corruption.
“He is the main culprit, and his establishment,” Hadi said, adding that Iranian leaders “don’t know how to rule.”
Khamenei was the target of some of the chants, with protesters shouting, “Death to the Dictator!” and, “Death to Khamenei!” in many places.
Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week that the people and security forces had ended the unrest, which it said was fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies.
Former student leader Ali Afshari, who has been tortured in an Iranian jail for protesting against the establishment, also warned that there could be more unrest in Iran’s future.
“The forces that took part in these protests are different than those behind other demonstrations we’ve seen in past years,” said Afshari, who now lives in the United States. “They came out because of their basic needs; and since the establishment has serious problems on the economic front, it doesn’t have the ability to respond to these needs.”
Afshari predicted the latest wave of protests would mark a “turning point” in Iran’s modern political history.
“The geographical scope of these protests were unprecedented in Iran’s recent history. Within a week, protests were held spontaneously in 82 cities across Iran.”
Meanwhile in Tabriz, Hadi insisted that the rage that sent him and others into to the streets won’t go away.
“This regime has to go, that’s what I want,” he said. “In Tabriz, we say that now the regime is even afraid or our silence.”
Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.
“Even if there are no more protests [right now], it will explode one day,” Hadi said. “This is not the end.”
Elleana Bowler cleans a headstone Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia.
Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.
More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”
Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.
“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.
The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.
“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”
Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.
“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”
National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.
Volunteers are essential
Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.
“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”
American officials have concluded that hackers working on behalf of a foreign power recently breached at least a dozen US nuclear power sites, Bloomberg reported July 6.
Bloomberg cited multiple US sources who said they had zeroed in on Russia as the primary suspect behind the most recent attacks, including one at Kansas’ Wolf Creek nuclear facility.
Officials believe the attacks may be related to a separate hack that happened late last month, in which unidentified hackers infiltrated the business-associated end of the power plant. The name and location of that site were not released, but EE News reported that federal investigators were looking into cyberattacks on multiple facilities at the time.
When reached for comment about the latest hacks, government officials and a spokesperson for Wolf Creek said the operational side of its network had not been affected.
“There was absolutely no operational impact to Wolf Creek,” Jenny Hageman, a spokeswoman for the nuclear plant, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “The reason that is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network.”
But the hacks have raised red flags for investigators who worry Russia may be gearing up to levy an attack against the US power grid. If that were the case, it would fit into a pattern adopted by Russia in the past, particularly as it relates to Ukraine.
In 2015, a massive cyberattack leveled against the country’s power grid cut electricity to almost 250,000 Ukrainians. Cybersecurity experts linked the attack to IP addresses associated with Russia. Since then, Wired magazine’s Andy Greenberg reported, Ukraine has seen a growing crisis in which an increasing number of Ukrainian corporations and government agencies have been hit by cyberattacks in a “rapid, remorseless succession.”
Ukraine is now host to what may turn into a full-blown cyberwar, Greenberg reported. Two separate attacks on the country’s power grid were part of what Greenberg called a “digital blitzkrieg” waged against it for the past three years, which multiple analysts have connected to Russian interests.
With respect to the recent cyberattacks on US nuclear facilities, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were aware of the intrusions.
“There is no indication of a threat to public safety, as any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks,” the agencies said in a statement.
But cybersecurity experts say that once a system is breached in any way — even if it’s not on the operational side — nuclear safety could be at risk down the road.
“If a nuclear power facility is attacked on the business side, that might actually serve as a way of information-gathering” for hackers, Paulo Shakarian, founder of the cybersecurity firm CYR3CON, told Business Insider. In some cases, hackers will try to “see if, by reaching that system, they can get more insight into what the facility is using on the operational side,” Shakarian said.
Though nuclear power providers have rigorous practices in place to divide business and nuclear operations in their networks, experts say an attack on one could inform an attack on the other.
Greg Martin, the CEO of cybersecurity firm JASK, said that while it was “wonderful” that network segmentation prevented hackers from being able to attack critical infrastructure directly, “the business side has tons of information about the more vulnerable infrastructure side of these types of plants.”
That information can include emails, communications involving design plans, information about security assessments, emails or documents that contain passwords, and more. Martin echoed Shakarian’s assessment and added that some information that can be gleaned from a breach like this can open up a window that “can be used to set up for future, more damaging attacks just based on the proprietary information they’re able to steal.”
These latest suspicions towards Russia come on the heels of a colossal cyberattack that crippled countries and corporations across the globe, which cybersecurity experts said Russia may have perpetrated.
Russia was also found to have hacked the 2016 US election in an effort to damage then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump. Russia has so far denied all the charges against it.