According to a new report by NBC, US military hackers have already penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications network and the Kremlin's command systems, making them susceptible to an attack by secret American cyber weapons if the US feels it is necessary. This revelation was provided bya senior intelligence official and by top-secret documents NBC reviewed.
The Clinton campaign has stated that Russia is behind the hacks of Demorat outlets, despite the assertions of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has asked Russia to hack and release Clinton's emails. A presidential candidate calling on a foreign goverment to spy on another presidential candidate and disrupt the election process has been called "treasonous".
But the purpose of this latest cyber infiltration appears to be different.
American officials have stated publicly that Russia, China and other countries have penetrated and left hidden malware on parts of US critical infrastructure for cyber attacks that could turn out the lights, or turn off the internet across major cities, NBC reports.
It's been widely assumed that the US has done the same thing to its adversaries. The documents reviewed by NBC News, along with remarks by a senior US intelligence official, confirm that in the case of Russia.
US officials have warned lately that Russia will disrupt the 2016 presidential election via cyber attacks. NBC reports that American intelligence officials don't expect Russia to go so far as to attack critical infrastructure, which could be interpreted as an act of war, but do expect "cyber mischief". This includes the possible release of fake documents and bogus social media accounts meant to spread misinformation, NBC reports.
On Friday the hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0", which US officials say is a front for Russian intelligence, tweeted a threat to monitor the US elections "from inside the system".
I'll be an independent observer at the U.S. #Elections2016
I call on other hackers to monitor the elections from inside the system
The US government is combatting the threat in a way that is without precedent for a presidential election. NBC reports that the cyber weapons would only be deployed in the unlikely event the US was first attacked in a significant way, they quote officials as saying.