SolarWinds and MAD 2.0

Wired (March 08, 2021):

‘Retaliation’ for Russia’s SolarWinds Spying Isn’t the Answer

“Instead of retaliation intended to “signal” something to Russia or define a rule that the US won’t want to abide by itself, Schneider suggests that any counterstrike for the SolarWinds campaign should target the hackers’ ability to carry out that sort of operation again. It would look less like an effort to punish the Kremlin—such as an equivalent hack of Russian infrastructure or even economic sanctions—so much as a targeted disruption of the machines or networks used by the SolarWinds hackers themselves. Past examples of that sort of counterstrike would be US Cyber Command’s disruption of the criminal Trickbot botnet, for instance, or the data-destructive attack on the network of Russia’s disinformation-spewing Internet Research Agency. “You make their job harder to do, which makes them invest more resources, which diverts resources from other nefarious things,” Schneider says. “The hope is that this gets them to focus on defense and they have fewer teams allocated towards finding vulnerabilities in, say, electric grids.””

“One former US government cybersecurity official described a slightly different approach that he analogized to a “brushback pitch,” the baseball term for a close, inside pitch that forces the batter to back away from the plate. “We’re going to make you duck,” he says. “This ball won’t hit you, but you’re going to know that we’re coming after you and take a step back.””

“That brushback tactic may not actually differ from a “retaliation” strike in substance. But framing it as a direct warning or counterstrike to the adversary hackers themselves rather than a norm-setting “punishment” for their bosses in the Kremlin could make that action more effective. “The kind of words that we’re using for these things can matter a great deal,” the former official says.”

“There are also steps short of a counterstrike that could still prove effective, says J. Michael Daniel, the former cybersecurity coordinator for the Obama administration. The US has tools to send subtle, diplomatic signals to adversaries, he points out. “You could use the cyber hotline that has been established between the United States and Russia and send a message that says ‘hey, we know this is you, knock it off,'” Daniel says. “You can tie up certain diplomatic things that maybe the Russians want at the UN that the US otherwise might not object to but decides to slow roll. There are other ways to express your diplomatic displeasure.””

“But ultimately spying, even at the SolarWinds scale, is within the rules of the game, Silverado’s Alperovitch argues. He harkens back to the comments of director of national intelligence James Clapper in a 2015 congressional hearing about the Chinese breach of the Office of Personnel Management, which resulted in the theft of reams of highly sensitive personal data on government officials. Clapper made clear in that hearing that he did not see the OPM breach as an “attack” but rather an act of espionage of the kind the US might well have carried out itself.”

“”This is a case of ‘good on them, shame on us,'” Alperovitch says, loosely paraphrasing Clapper’s remarks. “Let’s focus on making sure that we make it really hard for them to do this to us again.””

No computer is hack proof. When online systems are so insecure that authoritarian regimes get inside the Western power grid it’s time to return to the society we had prior to the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s. That’s the only safe and wise approach. But humanity – myself included – has become addicted to the Internet, and our new leaders in the West are greedy, spineless bastards, while it appears like nobody has the skills and bravery to nonviolently sabotage Big Tech in a responsible manner, so we can assume that the Internet, or the beginning of “Skynet“, is here to stay. What remains then is to “red team” how Russia and China will react if or when the US retaliates after the SolarWinds infiltration and similar recon invasions.

Ultra-liberal or neocon AI supremacy is an existential threat to Russia and China, so Cold War 2 has its own MAD 2.0 logic.

Always see the cyberwar between neocon/ultra-liberal states and China/Russia from the perspective of MAD 2.0: when the US has infiltrated the power grid of China and Russia it’s a balance of power, or mutually assured destruction, when Beijing and Kremlin have infiltrated the US power grid.

But if Russia or China notices that it can’t keep up with the hacking arms race in Cold War 2, you can expect that they rather blow the whole fourth industrial revolution to hell instead of just waiting for Western AI supremacy that will dominate the entire planet.

Stopping the first iterations of “Skynet” today, before it’s too late, is the best option, almost no matter how its done and despite the pain it will cause, so that part of me which is too brave for my own good actually hopes that ultra-liberal Big Tech pushes China and Russia into a corner where they are forced to destroy the whole surveillance network in the West, the very network that now feeds ultra-liberal AI with the data it needs to learn new things and reach supremacy on a global level.

Therefore, I can only say: Go Biden! Show them damn Russians your mighty cyber power. Crush ’em!

Ambiguity is not always productive in international politics, so to be clear: the last section above is part irony, part “reverse psychology”.

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