A decade ahead of Russia’s hack of the 2016 American election, Russia waged a cyberwar against Estonia, trying to take down the government systems and banking systems. It should have been a warning for the U.S. to prepare, but when Russia was found out to be waging a cyberwar against the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to act in America’s interest.
According to New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo, Russia’s attack was more than just a “dry run,” it was actually successful.
“They had disinformation campaigns. They had the cyber component,” he explained. “They were also doing the same thing they did in the United States. which is kind of pulling at the seams of natural division inside society and actually getting people into the streets. So, when you pull this all together, it starts to look more and more like not a dry run or a trial run, because they actually did some stuff. But a foundation, a blueprint actually for what happened in 2016.”
While technology has changed significantly since 2007, the methods and the goals are the same. Only the tools have changed.
“What we saw in 2016, of course, was, you know, using Twitter and using Facebook, using ad-buys that targeted specific demographics of people,” Apuzzo continued. “But what the real lesson I think from Estonia was that the natural divisions, the stuff that are the real flashpoints in society, whether it’s immigration or race or income inequality, abortion, gay rights — those hot-button issues really make for a natural, you know, weapons in a disinformation warfare.”
He said when modern technology is coupled with societal division and the result is the kind of chaos Russia wants to see. Ultimately, it makes America more vulnerable.
“So, that I think is what spins this story forward when we talk about 2020,” he went on. “You know, if the two parties aren’t talking to each other and Democrats don’t like Republicans and Republicans don’t like Democrats, it actually makes them more vulnerable to manipulation.”
Watch the full episode of “The Weekly” at The New York Times.
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