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11 Jun, 2019 17:14

‘They will pay a price’: Bolton says US has expanded ‘offensive cyber operations’ against Russia

‘They will pay a price’: Bolton says US has expanded ‘offensive cyber operations’ against Russia

The United States is ramping up cyber operations targeting Russia and other so-called adversaries, in what US National Security Advisor John Bolton says is a response to election meddling.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network conference on Tuesday, Bolton said Washington had taken steps to create “structures of deterrence” in cyberspace in order to stop interference in US elections, but what he described sounded a lot like launching a cyber war.

Under a new presidential directive, the administration has “fundamentally changed the way the United States government makes decisions about offensive cyber operations,” Bolton said, adding that the new approach has improved “capabilities across the board to engage in more offensive cyber activities.”

Though Bolton said the measures were intended to “avoid conflict,” the hawkish White House adviser couldn’t resist some public sabre rattling.

“The purpose … is to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyber operations against us, ‘you will pay a price,'” he said. “We will impose costs on you until you get the point.”

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Bolton maintained that US efforts were largely focused on state actors – he flew down the list of usual suspects: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea – but noted some attention was being devoted to hacking in the private sector.

Perhaps the most bellicose figure in the White House on foreign policy matters, Bolton has long argued for a more hostile footing in cyberspace. In an op-ed for the Hill last year, he urged the US to launch a “retaliatory cyber campaign” against Russia, which has apparently now become policy.

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The ramped up cyber offensive comes as Chinese telecom Huawei tussles with Washington over accusations of technology theft and spying, while Democrats in Congress push ahead with investigations into alleged Russian election interference, and whether the president obstructed the special counsel probe into the so-called meddling.

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