The U.S. is ramping up cyber operations targeting Russia and other so-called opponents, in what U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton says is a reaction to electoral interference.
Speaking on Tuesday at the CFO Network meeting, Bolton said Washington had taken measures to develop “deterrence structures” in cyberspace to prevent interference in U.S. elections, but what he described sounded like a cyber war.
Under a fresh presidential directive, the administration has “essentially altered the way the U.S. government makes choices on offensive cyber operations,” said Bolton, adding that the fresh strategy has enhanced “capacity across the board to participate in more offensive cyber operations.”
While Bolton said the measures were designed to “prevent conflict,” some government rattling could not be resisted by the hawkish White House advisor.
“The purpose … is to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyber operations against us, ‘you will pay a price. We will impose costs on you until you get the point.”John Bolton
Bolton argued that US attempts were mainly concentrated on government actors – he flew down the list of normal suspects: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea – but noted that some attention was concentrated on private-sector hacking.
Perhaps the most bellicose foreign-policy figure in the White House, Bolton has long argued for a more hostile cyberspace footing. Last year, in an op-ed for the Hill, he encouraged the US to launch a “retaliatory cyber campaign” against Russia that now seems to have become a strategy.
The increased cyber offensive emerges as Chinese telecom Huawei tussles with Washington over allegations of technology theft and spying, while Congressional Democrats are pushing forward with inquiries into suspected Russian election intervention, and whether the president has blocked the special counsel investigation into the so-called interference.