Today President Obama is planning to announce a response to Russia’s hacking of U.S. elections, and security experts are starting to get nervous.
In a statement, Intel Security’s chief technology officer, Steve Grobman, warned that retaliation could have unintended consequences, including inciting actual war.
“The administration, fellow lawmakers, and general public must understand the potentially catastrophic consequences of a digital cyber conflict escalating into a kinetic, conventional shooting war,” Grobman said. “Impacting digital infrastructure beyond the intended target opens the door to draw additional nation states into a conflict. This increases risk to civilian populations as countries see the need to retaliate or escalate.”
For the moment, it appears the Obama administration is considering things like additional economic sanctions, indictments, leaking embarrassing information about Russian politicians and business leaders, and restricting the movement of Russian diplomats in the U.S.
Reports have indicated that White House officials are also trying to avoid escalating the conflict and are leaning against taking steps to disrupt things like Russia’s internet access.
That said, Grobman urged U.S. officials to tighten security around the nation’s digital election systems.
“We strongly encourage any effort to expand the definition of the country’s digital infrastructure to include the nation’s election systems,” he said in a statement. “We usually consider critical infrastructure to include life-sustaining services such as water, power, transportation, and first responder communications. But, given that election systems are the foundational organs of democracy, we must protect them accordingly.”