The Daily Beast dissects a recent leak of a classified National Security Agency document outlining how Russian intelligence interfered with the 2016 Presidential election through its highly comprehensive information warfare campaign:
The dumped intelligence report offered some of the best confirmation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, providing more evidence to tamp down the claims of President Trump and his legions that it was China or a guy in a basement that hacked the Democratic National Committee and many other current and former American officials.
The techniques targeting election officials—spam that redirects recipients to false email login pages yielding passwords to Russian hackers—appear eerily familiar to those used by the GRU against many other U.S. targets in 2015 and 2016.
To the disappointment of Trump’s biggest haters, the NSA leak provides no evidence that Russia changed any votes. And that makes sense, as Russian altering of the tally in favor of their preferred candidate Donald Trump would be sufficient justification for war—one Russia would lose against the U.S.
The Kremlin sought instead to create the perception among Americans that the election may not be authentic in order to push their secondary election effort: Undermine the mandate of Hillary Clinton to govern, should she win.
The idea that Russia hacked actual electronic voting machines is a non-story. That is not how Russian intelligence interfered with the election. Russia did not use the traditional concept of computer hacking to effectively undermine the Clinton campaign. Instead, their comprehensive strategy was old fashioned information warfare, something Russia is extremely capable at executing.
Through the skilled use of video manipulation, meme creation, small cells targeting specific conversations on various social networks, and a wide array of automated bots, Russia effectively mounted one of the most dynamic and well executed information warfare campaigns in history. The only outstanding question at this juncture is whether or not there was any collusion, quid pro quo or otherwise, between the Trump campaign and Moscow. This remains to be seen based on whatever Special Council Mueller and his team is capable of finding.
In America, it sought not to alter the tally, but to create the perception that it’s possible—and instill doubt among Americans in the process. Hacking of voter rolls rather than machines creates an impression in the voters’ psyches without provoking the U.S. into open conflict.
This is likely going to be one of the longest lasting affects of Russian interference in the US election: sowing doubt and discord among the American populace, so much so it begins to break down the trust in governmental institutions, potentially leading towards a collapse of the Republic itself.
That may sound over the top, but it is exactly the outcome Putin desires. He would like America and Russia on a level playing field once again. Since the decline of the Soviet Union, America has constantly been atop Russia, overshadowing it in every aspect of political and military capability. That is, until Putin came into power and changed the game once again.
At this point one has to wonder exactly how capable the United States is with offensive cyber operations. Is the US capable of pulling off a similar campaign in a major country like what Russia did in 2016?