We seem to be in an open state of cyberwarfare
From this article in the NY Times:
The United States had two decades of warning that Russia’s intelligence agencies were trying to break into America’s most sensitive computer networks. But the Russians have always managed to stay a step ahead.
Their first major attack was detected on Oct. 7, 1996, when a computer operator at the Colorado School of Mines discovered some nighttime computer activity he could not explain. The school had a major contract with the Navy, and the operator warned his contacts there. But as happened two decades later at the D.N.C., at first “everyone was unable to connect the dots,” said Thomas Rid, a scholar at King’s College in London who has studied the attack.
Investigators gave it a name — Moonlight Maze — and spent two years, often working day and night, tracing how it hopped from the Navy to the Department of Energy to the Air Force and NASA. In the end, they concluded that the total number of files stolen, if printed and stacked, would be taller than the Washington Monument.
Whole weapons designs were flowing out the door, and it was a first taste of what was to come: an escalating campaign of cyberattacks around the world.
But for years, the Russians stayed largely out of the headlines, thanks to the Chinese — who took bigger risks, and often got caught. They stole the designs for the F-35 fighter jet, corporate secrets for rolling steel, even the blueprints for gas pipelines that supply much of the United States. And during the 2008 presidential election cycle, Chinese intelligence hacked into the campaigns of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, making off with internal position papers and communications. But they didn’t publish any of it.
The Russians had not gone away, of course. “They were just a lot more stealthy,” said Kevin Mandia, a former Air Force intelligence officer who spent most of his days fighting off Russian cyberattacks before founding Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm that is now a division of FireEye — and the company the Clinton campaign brought in to secure its own systems.
The Russians were also quicker to turn their attacks to political purposes. A 2007 cyberattack on Estonia, a former Soviet republic that had joined NATO, sent a message that Russia could paralyze the country without invading it. The next year cyber was used during Russia’s war with Georgia.
But American officials did not imagine that the Russians would dare try those techniques inside the United States. They were largely focused on preventing what former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned was an approaching “cyber Pearl Harbor” — a shutdown of the power grid or cellphone networks.
But in 2014 and 2015, a Russian hacking group began systematically targeting the State Department, the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Each time, they eventually met with some form of success,” Michael Sulmeyer, a former cyberexpert for the secretary of defense, and Ben Buchanan, now both of the Harvard Cyber Security Project, wrote recently in a soon-to-be published paper for the Carnegie Endowment.
The Russians grew stealthier and stealthier, tricking government computers into sending out data while disguising the electronic “command and control” messages that set off alarms for anyone looking for malicious actions. The State Department was so crippled that it repeatedly closed its systems to throw out the intruders. At one point, officials traveling to Vienna with Secretary of State John Kerry for the Iran nuclear negotiations had to set up commercial Gmail accounts just to communicate with one another and with reporters traveling with them.