US Military Took Cyber Action Against ‘Adversaries’ Before Election

FBI, Military, and CIA have been launching offensive cyber attacks

With all of the controversy surrounding election day, one claim not being made so far is that of foreign interference from countries like Russia, China, or Iran. US officials are claiming they thwarted foreign interference in the election by going on the offensive.

US Cyber Command Chief Gen. Paul Nakasone issued a statement late Tuesday night that said the US took action against “adversaries” to prevent election interference.

“I’m confident the actions we’ve taken against adversaries over the past several weeks and months have ensured they’re not going to interfere in our elections,” Nakasone said. “When it comes to those who threaten our democratic processes, we are equal opportunity disruptors.”

Anonymous officials told The Washington Post that the US undertook a cyber operation within the last two weeks against Iran. In October, US officials claimed Iran was behind a few hundred threatening emails sent to voters in Florida, Alaska, and Arizona.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also claimed Iran and Russia obtained voter registration data used to send the emails. But officials from the three states targeted by the emails said their voter databases had not been compromised, suggesting that any data that had been obtained was public information.

US intelligence agencies claiming cyber attacks from so-called adversary nations has become a regular occurrence. But locating the source of cyber activity and hacks is difficult, and the agencies rarely offer evidence to back up their claims.

The Iranian email scheme was attributed to Iran within 27 hours, which is the fastest attribution in history, according to The Washington Post. Trying to explain the quick attribution, anonymous officials told Reuters that the hackers made a “dumb mistake” that revealed their IP address.

For their part, Iran denied being responsible for the email scheme and summoned a Swiss envoy to voice their objection to the US. Since Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties, Switzerland acts as a mediator between the two countries.

It’s tough to know if there is any truth to US claims about cyberattacks attributed to countries like Iran. What is known is that the US military and intelligence agencies have been going on the offensive in the cyber realm.

In September, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate hearing that the FBI has been feeding intelligence to the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies to carry out offensive cyber operations. “An important part of fighting back against our foreign adversaries in the cyber realm is offense as well as defense,” Wrath said. 

In July, Yahoo! News reported that President Trump authorized the CIA to conduct offensive cyberattacks in 2018. Sources told Yahoo! News that the CIA has used the authority to carry out attacks on Iran and other adversary nations.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.