DNI Coats: U.S. Digital Infrastructure ‘Under Attack’
By Jenna Lifhits (weeklystandard.com) / July 13 2018
In wake of a new indictment against Russian agents, Dan Coats warns that Moscow’s ‘actions are persistent, they’re pervasive, and they’re meant to undermine America’s democracy.’
America’s digital infrastructure “is literally under attack,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Friday, with Russia as the most aggressive foreign actor, intent on undermining U.S. democracy.
His remarks came shortly after the Department of Justice announced charges against 12 Russian intelligence officials over alleged efforts to hack into the DCCC, the DNC, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The intelligence officials are accused of disseminating the stolen information using the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.
“These actions are persistent, they’re pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not,” Coats said of Russian activities.
He compared today’s warning indicators related to cyberattacks to those in the run-up to 9/11. “It was in the months prior to September 2001, when according to then-CIA director George Tenet, the system was blinking red,” he during an event at the Hudson Institute. “And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.”
Today’s cyber threats emanate from terrorist groups, criminal organizations, and foreign states like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, Coats said. But Russia, unlike the other state actors, is uniquely intent on undermining American values and democracy, the DNI said.
Back in February, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three companies over “information warfare against the United States” related to election interference. The indictment featured disinformation efforts coming out of a St. Petersburg based organization called the Internet Research Agency.
Those activities, Coats said, have not stopped.
“We continue to see individuals affiliated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency creating new social media accounts, masquerading as Americans and then using these accounts to draw attention to divisive issues,” he said.
Coats stressed that Russia’s cyber activities go beyond targeting elections to attempts to target vulnerabilities in critical U.S. infrastructure.
“DHS and FBI, in coordination with international partners, have detected Russian government actors targeting government and businesses in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors. The warning signs are there,” he said. “The system is blinking and it is why I believe we are at a critical point.”
Trump is expected to meet with Vladimir Putin this Monday in Helsinki. Asked on Friday what he would say to Putin if he had the chance, Coats said he would make clear that the U.S. knows Putin is the ringleader of Russia’s disruptive cyber activities—and would warn him that in a continued “tit-for-tat,” Russia would lose.
“If your goal is to strengthen Russia in the proper way, we can cooperate with you. But if your goal is to strengthen Russia at the cost to us … we’re not going to get anywhere,” he said. “President Putin, the decision is up to you. We know you run the shop. We know you’re making the decisions.”
“But if you want to stay in this tit-for-tat, we’re going to beat you.”