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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/20/16

If the US hacks Russia for revenge, that could lead to cyberwar

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Who thinks that once the US leaks some documents back on Putin that he'll suddenly be like "oh, you got me, I guess we'll stop!" The more likely scenario is that this half-baked idea will escalate the cyber tensions rather than act as a deterrent.

Remember, Putin reportedly thinks that the Panama Papers leak was the work of the US government (even though there's no evidence to suggest it was) and some think the current leaks involving US politicians are his revenge. This potential CIA operation will, in his mind, only confirm his suspicions.

Putin is also much less susceptible to public pressure than US politicians are (given his alleged heavy-handed dealings with his opponents) and has increasingly attempted to implement draconian internet surveillance laws which he'll surely use to his advantage if the US does go through with this plan.

Instead of saber rattling about an unprecedented wave of cyber-attacks, the US government negotiated with China, and the attacks on the US, at least on the hacking of commercial secrets, slowed down significantly. (So much so that cybersecurity defense contractors took a big hit on the stock market. Lucky for them Russia is the new bogeyman!) Why does the reaction to alleged Russian actions have to turn into a contest in who's the bigger tough guy? It's hard to remember that just a year and a half ago, the supposed biggest cyber threat in US history was China. They were alleged to have stolen billions of dollars of intellectual property and then were accused of hacking tens of millions of people's security review files from the US government going back decades.

Russia's not going to stop gathering intelligence on American political parties just like the US is not going to stop on theirs, but maybe the US should attempt to actually de-escalate tensions by starting the process of negotiating some form of an international cyber treaty before this gets too out of control.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)

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