How the U.S. uses “stealth” submarines to cyber hack other countries

Stealth submarine
 

1 August 2016 – When the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asked Russia — wittingly or otherwise — to launch hack attacks to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, it stirred a commotion. Russia is allegedly behind the DNC’s leaked emails (see our boss’ take on all of this here).

 

But The Washington Post is reminding us that U.S.’s efforts in the cyber-security world aren’t much different. From the report:

The U.S. approach to this digital battleground is pretty advanced. For example: Did you know that the military uses its submarines as underwater hacking platforms? In fact, subs represent an important component of America’s cyber strategy. They act defensively to protect themselves and the country from digital attack, but — more interestingly — they also have a role to play in carrying out cyberattacks, according to two U.S. Navy officials at a recent Washington conference. “There is a — an offensive capability that we are, that we prize very highly,” said Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the U.S. Navy’s program executive officer for submarines. “And this is where I really can’t talk about much, but suffice to say we have submarines out there on the front lines that are very involved, at the highest technical level, doing exactly the kind of things that you would want them to do.”

The so-called “silent service” has a long history of using information technology to gain an edge on America’s rivals. In the 1970s, the U.S. government instructed its submarines to tap undersea communications cables off the Russian coast, recording the messages being relayed back and forth between Soviet forces. (The National Security Agency has continued that tradition, monitoring underwater fiber cables as part of its globe-spanning intelligence-gathering apparatus. In some cases, the government has struck closed-door deals with the cable operators ensuring that U.S. spies can gain secure access to the information traveling over those pipes.)

These days, some U.S. subs come equipped with sophisticated antennas that can be used to intercept and manipulate other people’s communications traffic, particularly on weak or unencrypted networks.  “We’ve gone where our targets have gone” — that is to say, online, said Stewart Baker, the National Security Agency’s former general counsel, in an interview. “Only the most security-conscious now are completely cut off from the Internet.”

Cyberattacks are also much easier to carry out than to defend against :-)

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