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Russian hackers seem to shift their focus to the US power grid

WASHINGTON – State-sponsored Russian hackers this year seem to be far more interested in demonstrating that they can disrupt the US utility grid than the midterm elections, as US intelligence officials and technology managers report.

Despite infiltration attempts, online reports from two Senate Democrats awaiting reelection, intelligence officials said they saw little activity by Russian military hackers targeting either major American politicians or state voter registration systems.

For comparison, for intelligence officials and executives Of the companies that monitor the world's computer networks, there is an amazingly greater effort to implant malware into the power grid.

The officials talked about the condition of anonymity to discuss findings, but their conclusions were confirmed by several senior technology and technology security firms. The Ministry of Defense reported that last year Russian intelligence had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants in the United States. Theoretically, this could allow remote control of parts of the network.

While the "Hundreds of Victims" department led the attacks, much more than they had previously admitted, there is no evidence that the hackers attempted to take over the facilities, as Russian actors in the Ukraine said Years 2015 and 2016 did.

In interviews, American intelligence officials said the department underestimated the extent of the threat. So far, the White House has said little about the intrusions, except the fear of such violations, to maintain old coal power plants if they need to recover from a major attack.

On Friday, President Trump was briefed on the government's efforts to protect the upcoming midterm elections from what a White House statement described as "vicious foreign actors." She said she supports state and local governments to protect their electoral systems.

"The president has made his government clear we will not tolerate foreign interference from any national state to other vicious actors," the statement said.

It is possible that Russian hackers will keep their fire until election day in November. In the face of allegations this month of 12 Russian military officers being accused of American electoral bluffing, the agency earlier called itself G.R.U. perhaps it is very well aware that it is closely watched by the National Security Agency and other US intelligence agencies.

But that did not stop Russian intelligence agencies from targeting politicians.

Microsoft has halted this last week at a security conference announcing a stop last fall that was aimed at Senate human resources offices. While the company did not identify who was targeted, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, who has a tough race for reelection, said on Thursday night that her office had been hit in an attack she deemed unsuccessful [19659002] acknowledged the breach only when The Daily Beast identified her as one of the legislators whose offices were the target of password-seeking efforts.

"Russia continues to engage in cyber warfare against our democracy," McCaskill said in a statement. "Although this attack was unsuccessful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with it, and I will not be intimidated."

American officials said it was unclear whether the attack was being re-elected Mrs. McCaskill was related. She is a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and a senior official said it was possible that hackers were looking for a way to access secret military operations and budgets.

Microsoft Officials Determining October and November Ingresses (19659002) "If we see such an attempt, we have no way to see the attacker's motivation," said Tom Burt, vice president of customer safety and trust Microsoft on Friday. McCaskill was one of two legislators whose offices were attacked by Russian hackers. the company refused to name the other one. (Mr Burt told the Aspen Security Forum last week that three members of the congress have been targeted, but he said on Friday that the many accounts targeted were apparently employees of only two law firms.)

Microsoft blocked the attacks with a special court order that allowed him to take control of Internet domains created by Russians who appeared to be official Microsoft sites but were not. The company has used this process at least three times against hackers associated with Russian military intelligence.

But aside from these attempts, Mr. Burt and several American intelligence officials said that there were surprisingly few cyber attacks on political leaders, least compared to 2016.

"We do not see the level of activity in the midterm elections that we saw two years ago, "said Mr. Burt. "But it's still early."

Partly because intermediate elections are much harder to influence than a presidential race. It would require separate intervention in more than 460 competitions, many of which would be of little interest to a foreign power.

"I see 2018 as a run-up to 2020," said Laura Rosenberger, the director of Allianz for securing democracy at the German Marshall Fund. Ms. Rosenberger, a former foreign minister and Hillary Clinton's foreign policy advisor during the 2016 campaign, has undertaken one of the most comprehensive efforts to track and expose foreign influence in US elections.

She told Russian intelligence hackers "to further polarize a highly polarized electorate and undermine confidence in electoral systems."

In a presentation at the Aspen Forum, the new head of the US Cybercommand spoke at length about one New Approach to "Ongoing Commitment" "With US opponents, an effort to see attacks piling up on overseas networks before beating in the United States.

The commander, General Paul M. Nakasone, who also ruled the United States Director of the National Security Agency is said that he had after taking command in the spring, he founded a small group from Russia, but said nothing about his operations.The NSA is responsible for the defense of government networks and the conduct of covert offensive operations.

He spent much of his speech with the difficulties de To describe the confrontation of states operating under the threshold of war, as he and other officials often refer to Russian efforts to influence the election.

Last year, National Security Advisor to President Trump, John R. Bolton, described the Russian hacker of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 elections as "an" act of war. "The hackers are accused of theft from the data of the committee and then publish stolen emails through a number of websites, including WikiLeaks.

Just as it is difficult to judge the intent of Russian hackers to attack Mrs. McCaskill's office, It's hard to understand why they've done so much effort in the installation of "implants" – hard-to-find malware – to invest in the operating systems of the operators.

The fear is, of course, that Russia could be the American plan But such an attack would almost certainly lead to a military response, as General Nakasone has indirectly suggested in the Aspen Forum.

It is possible that the hackers are simply trying to demonstrate what they can do, as at the end of 2014, when they fought the efforts of the NSA, they from the unclassified E-Ma urging on the White House's il systems.

In the cases described by the Department of Homeland Security, as presented to the electricity companies and external experts, Russian hackers went into these power plants through the networks of contractors, some of which were poorly protected. These contractors provided software to the utility's systems. Then they used "spearphishing" emails to get utility operators to change their passwords.

That's exactly the approach used against Mrs. McCaskill's staff, officials said.

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