U.S. & Russia On The Brink Of An Open Cyber War: What To Expect

Sahash Khanal

After months of looming terror of a potential third world war, the U.S. and Russia are now on the brink of an open cyber war. While it can be speculated that such a war would involve targeting and disrupting important digitized infrastructural components of the enemy, the world is yet to experience an open cyber war of this magnitude. So what exactly can be expected?

President Obama warned earlier this week that the U.S. would be retaliating against Russia after reports confirmed that they were actively involved in hacking the Democratic emails during the election. It was concluded by intelligence officials that the hacking was a clear attempt to influence the results of the election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump.

The president, however, spoke on Friday about how the U.S. is more vulnerable to cyber attacks compared to Russia.

"Our economy is more digitized, it's more vulnerable, partly because we're a wealthier nation, and we're more wired than other nations."
"A three-pronged attack against our power grid, transportation, and financial systems would be devastating and potentially viewed as a terrorist attack against the United States."
"Dictators may win cyber battles, but they will lose cyber wars."

Jason Healey, a Columbia University scholar, calls the election hacking one of the most serious kinds of conflict we've ever come across. And he doesn't think the U.S.'s diplomatic tactics or sanctions against Russia are doing it any help.

"It's clear Putin does not care about sanctions or other diplomatic means we might use to get him to back down."

Russia has provided asylum for NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. [Image by Juliet Linderman/AP Images]

Some experts such as former NSA Computer Scientist, Dave Aitel, recommend that the only way to get the Russians to back down would be for the U.S. to show an aggressive response.

"Let's turn off all the lights in Moscow, then turn them back on five minutes later. And do that every day at a certain hour. It's scary with no collateral damage."

Either way, Frank Cilluffo of George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security believes that the U.S. needs to respond right away as not doing show may show a sign a weakness to the adversary.

"From a credibility perspective, we absolutely have no choice but to respond. Everyone is watching."