It is a reminder of two things. First, in the cyberage, closing a diplomatic facility has the faint ring of the Cold War, but most of the attacks on American corporations, laboratories and the government are launched from servers outside American borders. And second, without firing a bullet or dropping a bomb, an adversary can deliver a crippling setback to the United States by infiltrating American computer networks, whether the target is the design for the F-35 warplane or a potential coronavirus vaccine.
To Mr. Trump’s credit, orders he issued two summers ago have resulted in more aggressive pushback, what the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command call a strategy of “defend forward.” That means they go deep into an adversary’s computer networks, sometimes to strike back, but more often to signal that an attack will not be cost-free.
“The central issue is that they need to know they will pay a price,” Mr. Langevin said.
It was the Obama administration that moved more aggressively to indict cyberactors, making public the information about who was behind the hacks that until then was available only to those who had the clearance to read classified intelligence briefings.
“It was a long-overdue step,” said John P. Carlin, who spearheaded the strategy as the chief of the Justice Department’s national security division. Mr. Carlin, who later wrote about the experience in the book “Dawn of the Code War,” said that “it is a good way to make the detail public in a credible way, with the high standard that you believe you can prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 22, 2020
Why do masks work?
- The coronavirus clings to wetness and enters and exits the body through any wet tissue (your mouth, your eyes, the inside of your nose). That’s why people are wearing masks and eyeshields: they’re like an umbrella for your body: They keep your droplets in and other people’s droplets out. But masks only work if you are wearing them properly. The mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin, and should stretch almost to your ears. Be sure there are no gaps — that sort of defeats the purpose, no?
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
What’s the best material for a mask?
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
If you do not do that, Mr. Carlin said in an interview on Wednesday, “the message you are sending is that you are decriminalizing this activity.” Just before Mr. Carlin left office in 2016, President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, announced an agreement that should have ended cybertheft of corporate data. It worked for a while, then fell apart. The Chinese military’s hacking diminished, but the slack was picked up by operatives of the Chinese intelligence agencies. On Tuesday, for example, the Justice Department accused a pair of Chinese hackers of targeting vaccine development on behalf of the country’s intelligence service.
The lesson may be that while the indictments are necessary, they may not be sufficient. So when Gen. Paul M. Nakasone took over as the director of the N.S.A. and the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, he turned to more aggressive actions. The N.S.A. shut down the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg for a few days around the 2018 midterms and sent warnings to Russian intelligence officers. It has worked to sabotage North Korean and Iranian missiles.
The best argument for the strategy is that, so far, no one has turned off the power grid in the United States or conducted a similarly crippling strike. But when it comes to stealing corporate or national security secrets, the cost-benefit analysis conducted in Moscow and Beijing usually comes back with the same conclusion: The benefits still outweigh the costs.