to Politico three Russian spies spent five years, visiting 135 countries in an attempt to allow the Russian government remotely wrestle over and gain control of the power plants, according to claims in an indictment unsealed on Thursday. There is good news in that the indictment involves an activity that took place between 2012 and 2014, which – of course, leaves the bad news as; What are the Russians doing today? We know that they hacked the United States government and several Fortune 500 companies, an effort identified and stopped in January of 2021. What else?
The claims in the indictment give one a sense of the scope of the Russian effort, and – almost like compounding interest – move the seriousness of possible attacks forward to now, eight to ten years later:
From 2014 to 2017, Akulov, Gavrilov and Tyukov are accused of using spearphishing and other tactics to home in on more than 3,300 specific people working in the energy industry. Their targets worked at more than 500 different entities, including the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the indictment. In one instance, they are alleged to have compromised the business network of Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. in Kansas, which runs a nuclear power plant, though a Justice Department official, who was granted anonymity as a condition of letting reporters join a press conference, said Thursday that the control systems network was not accessed.
It is unfortunate that these revelations come out while the nation’s focus is appropriately on the war in Ukraine and developments here in the United States regarding the SCOTUS. It is unfortunate because for all the talk about “World War III” if US tanks roll across the Polish-Ukrainian border, it’s highly unlikely that Putin would bomb the United States here at home, with nuclear or hypersonic and powerful traditional bombs.
No, a true “World War III” is far more likely to be fought online and it won’t be an explosion that alerts you, it’ll be the fact that your cell phone isn’t getting service… and you know you paid the bill. Then you find out no one else has service, either, because either key hacking has brought the system down or a satellite was brought down. If shots are fired in World War III, they are as likely to be fired in space as they are on earth. There is a reason we have a Space Force and each developed nation has the ability to shoot down satellites.
The devastation would be more extensive than one might believe, availability of prescription medicines, food, money, and everything else depending on our logistics would be tossed into chaos. Modern society would have a tough time lasting longer than a week before order breaks down.
There were surely lessons learned in arresting these spies:
“Russian state-sponsored hackers pose a serious and persistent threat to critical infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement on Thursday. “Although the criminal charges unsealed today reflect past activity, they make crystal clear the urgent ongoing need for American businesses to harden their defenses and remain vigilant.”
Past activity? Yes, just prior to the Russians hacking voting databases in a large number of states in 2016. The Mueller report found a disturbing amount of hacking around the 2016 election, including gaining entrance to voter rolls. We heard reassurances, “No votes were flipped.” Everyone knows you do not need to flip votes to control US elections, you simply need to kick a sufficient number of voters off the rolls in critical areas.
So it is unfortunate that most Americans won’t hear of the indictment. The atrocities occurring in Ukraine are the product of a traditional war because the Russians want to claim the nation itself as Russian territory. But if a country wants to “fight” to simply hurt another country, such as the London bombing in WWII (the Germans never planned on invading the UK, they were trying to hurt the UK), this is how it will happen.
One morning the lights won’t be on, your cell service won’t work, or servers across the United States are down, cutting off most of the traffic on the net. If it was done with enough sophistication, in a manner that took weeks to months to fix, many Americans would die for lack of medicines and other logistical needs that are now fully dependent on networks. How would the 911 system function?
This indictment, for activity traced back eight years ago, should send shivers down American spines. If the Russians ever gained such abilities, this is the environment in which they would be unleashed, which is why it was just four days ago that President Biden warned the country that cyber-atacks “were coming.”
That is scary.
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
Please visit his Substack Newsletter, get the first month free: Much Ado About Everything: By Jason Miciak