Our Take

Cold War redux

Cold War redux

Russian hackers having power to control the US power grid -- to an extent where they can even cause blackouts -- is now a fact. It happened in 2017 and it might happen again in 2018. Three decades after the end of the Cold War when MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was the name of the game through which period two armed-to-the-teeth Superpowers indulged in a belligerent face-off, a new Cold War is playing out between a declining US (at least till Donald Trump began to shake things up) and a Russia under Vladimir Putin trying to regain its heft of the USSR decades. The latest manifestation of Moscow's growing power, or at least that's the allegation, is its ability to manipulate through its cyber-warriors even the US presidential election and now hundreds of power/utility facilities have fallen victim to suspected Russian hackers. In 2015, Russia was able to pull off the most efficient and successful cyber-attacks ever on power plants in the Ukraine.

These hackers are thought to be part of a Russian group called Energetic Bear, which is feared to have gained access to the control rooms of homeland security departments, power stations and also some highly secure air-gapped networks of countries around the world but especially the US and its allies. Even though the Federal Government in Washington continue to deny and downplay the evidence of Russian hacking, there is a lot of it going on in the US.

Putin is nothing if not a Cold War warrior - he earned his spurs in the KGB, remember - and has been accused of using the Kremlin to  sow chaos in adversaries' ranks while ensuring plausible deniability. It was on his watch that Russia annexed Crimea under the fig-leaf of a dodgy referendum and also invaded the Ukraine. The old, Soviet speciality of spy-poisoning has also been on display in recent years. The US and its allies are responding with their own dirty-tricks departments. We live in interesting times, to say the least.



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