Our curious cyber offensive against Russia


We’re effectively talking about starting a war the president doesn’t know about because everyone decided not to tell him.

So the NYT report about the US inserting offensive cyber weapons into Russian energy infrastructure is, um, something. First, it’s disturbing that we have laws allowing acts of war approved by the Sec of Defense without presidential approval. Second, we have the defense community essentially bragging to the NYT about something no one should really know anything about if we’re going to do it. Third, we have the first and second combined with the sources saying point blank that they didn’t tell the president because he can’t be trusted with sensitive information.

And finally we have the president lashing out at the NYT for … something. If he’s mad about it printing the story because it revealed secret military operations, the blame is really on the DoD since it was pretty openly bragging. If he’s mad that he read about it in the NYT, he should be mad at his SoD who didn’t tell him.

But perhaps most disturbing is how we’ve been doing so much pearl clutching about Russian cyber penetration into US infrastructure and election systems while clearly doing the same damned thing. I can’t figure out what to make of the bragging. If we’re really that deep in their systems, why would we tell everyone? If it’s a bluff, it’s a dangerous one. Either way, it completely opens the door for a dangerous escalation of these actions. And my gut tells me that we’re probably a lot more vulnerable to cyber attacks on energy infrastructure than Russia simply because our systems are more diverse and less likely to have government involvement.

Grid failures cascade. Power plants need power off the grid to run. That sounds weird but it’s true. If there’s a grid failure, plants on that grid generally need to go into emergency shut down. This may be less of an issue with the gas plants that aren’t reliant on all the water pumping and secondary systems. Generator electricity can’t be directed into this secondary systems. The design is to push that very high voltage onto the grid and pull some back to run mills, pumps, etc. My point being that you don’t have to bring down the whole grid for chaos. You could start with a small, municipal electric generator and picking around the edges will have outsized effects since everything is tied together.

But what a world, hey? We’re effectively talking about starting a war the president doesn’t know about because everyone decided not to tell him. It’s the reverse Nixon.