- Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The Russians successfully hacked the US government in 2008 using a remarkable ploy recounted in a recent story in The New Yorker.
To break into the American military’s network – which was classified and not connected to the public internet – the Russians planted bugged thumb drives in kiosks near NATO headquarters in Kabul, hoping that an American serviceman or servicewoman would buy a drive and plug it into a secure computer.
And it worked.
This story was originally documented in “Dark Territory,” Fred Kaplan’s history of cyberwarfare. Since that successful attack, cyberwarfare has become a key tool in the Russian government’s arsenal, used in everything from influencing a US presidential election to bullying a weak neighbor.
In another extraordinary case around the same time, which received little news coverage, the Russian government reportedly disrupted major Estonian websites for two weeks in order to pressure its neighbor to preserve a statue of a Soviet soldier that the Estonian government had plans to remove from a public square.
The Russian government openly warned it would be “disastrous for Estonians” if the statue were to be removed.
Shortly after the attack, the Estonian government decided to keep the statue.
American intelligence agencies recently concluded that the Russian government acted covertly to influence the 2016 US presidential election in favor of President Trump by releasing hacked emails of Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.