The scope of various cyber operations carried out by different state players has recently become the cause of increasing tension amid international relations. For instance, at the end of 2016, the United States accused Russia of hacking the servers of the US Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the introduction of sanctions against a number of Russian intelligence services that were described as offenders in this recent incident. However, Washington to date, hasn’t presented any evidence to back up its claims.
At the same time, a considerable number of Western media sources, including Foreign Policy, have openly admitted Moscow was not accused of anything in America’s last election that Washington itself has not done elsewhere in the world.
Curiously enough, distinguished historian Marc Trachtenberg, professor emeritus at UCLA, has already stressed that this alleged interference is a type of behavior that the United States helped establish; since meddling in other countries’ politics has been an American specialty for decades. The Washington Times seems to be convinced too that America’s record of meddling in other countries and of leaders who have lied to Washington puts it in the position where it must tread carefully to avoid hypocrisy.
Those who complain about alleged Russian offenses must certainly know that the US government eavesdrops, as a matter of course, on the private communications of many people around the world. The National Security Agency, whose job it is to do this kind of eavesdropping, has a budget of about 10 billion dollars, and, according to an article that came out in the Washington Post a few years ago, intercepts and stores “1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications” everyday.
In terms of the development of so-called cyber armies – highly specialized units that can use cyberspace for both military or intelligence purposes – Russia may indeed be found in the top 5 states in the world in this domain, however, it’s lagging behind the US, China, Britain and South Korea. In general, such armies exist officially in a several dozen countries, as for the unofficial numbers, there’s hundreds of those, since the scope of information warfare operations has been increasing rapidly over the years.
It goes without saying that US cyber forces has been the most powerful in the world, with over 9,000 trained professionals in its ranks.. As for the UK, the so-called Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been providing employment to over 6,000 servicemen. Out of this number, according to individual media reports, more than 2,000 servicemen are engaged in cyber warfare.
Additionally, it should be noted that cyber squads can be found in a number of armies around the world, but those are not “military hackers”, those are security specialist that are tasked with protecting digital assets and IT infrastructure, at least officially. Off of the top of one’s head one can name such units in South Korea, Israel, Iran and Estonia.
The question of whether or not these hackers are capable of influencing political processes and, in particular, one’s presidential campaign, has been broadly discussed at the latest 9th International Forum on Cybersecurity (FIC), which was held last January in the French city of Lille. For the first time the forum was held in 2007, following an initiative of the National Gendarmerie, and every year it has collected public authorities, private sector representatives, experts and civil society figures. In 2017, the forum aimed at discussing the issue of providing “reasonable security for IT assets.”
France’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Bruno Le Roux has stressed in his opening speech at the forum that IT systems are regularly becoming the target of attacks originating from criminal organizations and even from foreign states, which are showing great ingenuity.
But we must not forget that more often than not, it’s not foreign hackers that play the role of a destabilizing factor in the political life of any given society, but the hackers hired by opposition political parties of these very states. And the United State exemplifies this statement better that any, with Donald Trump announcing his concern over the leakage of the details of his telephone conversations with foreign political figures.
According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, the Trump administration will have to exercise damage control after the leakage of the details of the discussions that Trump had over the phone with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. “This is a very disturbing fact,” – said Spicer in his recent statement. AP has allegedly acquired these tapes, so it now reports that Trump allegedly said in a conversation that the Mexican government is incapable of dealing with the “bad guys”. For sure, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has claimed that those reports are false, but what other choice did it have?
In addition, Trump has also been denying the claims distributed by the Washington Post that he had a very “bad talk” with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about ” – Trump wrote in his Twitter.