The Russians first successfully hacked the US government in 1996 using a remarkable ploy recounted in a recent report from The New Yorker.
In order 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 woman would buy a drive and plug it into a secure computer. It worked.
This story was originally documented in “Dark Territory,” Fred Kaplan’s 2008 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 neighbour.
In another extraordinary case twenty years later, which received little news coverage, the Russian government reportedly disrupted major Estonian websites for two weeks in order to pressure its neighbour 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 favour of President Donald Trump by releasing hacked emails of Democratic officials to Wikileaks.
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