back to article UK defence secretary: Russian hacks are destabilising Western democracy

The UK defence secretary has accused Russia of using hacking to destabilise the West. Sir Michael Fallon said the Kremlin is "weaponising misinformation" as part of a sustained campaign that goes beyond alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. NATO needs to do more to combat the threat, the senior cabinet …

  1. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Get your retaliation in first

    "Hacking of political figures in an attempt to influence elections is likely to be the new normal."

    Well, OK. I suppose that gives us the green light to expose Putin as a repressive, authoritarian thug who murders his political enemies and interferes militarily abroad, so that at the next election the Russian people can... oh.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Get your retaliation in first

      Sometimes the truth is the simple, plain truth...

    2. Potemkine Silver badge

      Re: Get your retaliation in first

      I doubt the Russian people will ever get the information, Putin having destroyed any independent-media.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Get your retaliation in first

        Says, er, The Guardian... er...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get your retaliation in first

      Cognitive dissonance?

      Politicians and the media are almost uniformly regarded as liars but what they say is still treated as truth when it panders to ignorance and tribal bias.

      I would be interested to know what proportion of the comments in this thread are based upon first-hand knowledge and what proportion is based just upon what the politicians and media are claiming.

      I suspect that only a very small proportion of the commentators here are in a position to have first-hand knowledge and that the majority are just responding to propaganda crafted to achieve exactly those responses.

      Some pertinent questions to ask would be:

      Is the alleged* behaviour of Russia something new; are they doing something new and different or is this something that has always happened?

      If this is something that has always happened then what are the reasons for highlighting it now but not before?

      Alternatively, if this has not always happened then what occurred to result in it starting now?

      Do our governments not also do this, and if not, why not? It would seem remiss of them if they do not.

      * Alleged, because it is being asserted by people and organisations we already regard as liars.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Get your retaliation in first

        Retaliation and manipulation are probably easier now with the Internet and with "social media" and then the news orgs (including El Reg) getting stories off other social media (like Twitter and Facebook).

        I would suspect that it's easier to do in the "free" and "democratic" countries than in places like Russia, China, etc. where the news and even the Internet are controlled.

        1. Captain Badmouth

          Re: Get your retaliation in first

          As was quoted in the Times yesterday it's easy to be a hero in a democracy.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Get your retaliation in first

        The link below provides a clear, simple example of what is going on. It could be multiplied hundreds of times; a Western government (usually the USA) or NATO makes a claim, which is "stenographically transcribed" by all the media. Nobody in the West asks any questions or does any checking. But the claim is subsequently found to be utterly untrue. Remember Tony Blair's "dodgy dossier" - much of it copied without acknowledgement from someone's thesis on the Web? Remember the WMD that could be ready to fire within 45 minutes? Remember how Colonel Qadafi was preparing to "slaughter" thousands of civilians in Beghazi? (Some of those "civilians" later killed the US Ambassador - they were Al-Qaeda terrorists). The Russian "invasion" of Crimea? (No Russian soldiers entered Crimea - they were already there under the terms of the agreement with Ukraine). The photos of Russian tanks "crossing the border into Ukraine"? (They were actually photographed in Georgia in 2008, and were even copyright by an Israeli photographer). The poison gas allegedly used by the Syrian armed forces (a year after UN experts had formally certified that all Syria's chemical weapons had been destroyed)? The hospital in Kunduz that was destroyed "by mistake" in an attack that went on for two hours? The 100-plus Syrian soldiers who were "accidentally" killed by NATO bombing, immediately after which ISIS terrorists swarmed forward to complete the job? And on and on and on...

        https://www.rt.com/usa/376275-pentagon-video-yemen-10-years-old/

        "The Pentagon’s website no longer shows an “important intelligence” video obtained in a fatal Yemeni raid, since officials realized the footage has been available online for a decade.

        "On Friday, the Pentagon posted a video to the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) website they said justified the operation in Yemen which cost the life of one US Navy SEAL and several Yemeni civilians...

        "The video released by the Pentagon depicted a man in a white robe and black mask demonstrating how to make Triacetone Triperoxide, an explosive used in the attempted “shoe-bomber” attack in 2001 and the London attacks in 2005.

        "Only problem is, the video clips, titled, "Lessons in How to Destroy the Cross," were first posted to the Site Intelligence group website in 2007.

        "Several hours after its posting, the material was removed from the DVIDS site".

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Get your retaliation in first

          Oh, and the BUK missile that was supposed to have shot down MH17 - although no one saw it from the ground or took a photo of it, even though its plume would have hung in the air for an hour after the launch? While all Ukraine's radars - both civil and military - had been shut down for unspecified reasons, MH17 had been arbitrarily rerouted over the fighting zone, and all Ukrainian air traffic control records have apparently been lost.

  2. larokus

    clarocque@gmail.com

    Protesting and mobilizing against establishment and the democratic process is destabilizing democracy.

    Wall Street, anti Trump rallies, etc etc. I don't need to like my democratically elected leader, in fact I am rarely quite fond of any, but to value democracy is to cast your vote and accept the outcome, or we all risk a far worse outcome than a disappointing election result.

    Millenials have adopted a dangerous methodology for starting a conversation.

    I hardly think Russia is to blame. Social Media is likely a better candidate.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just my two cents...

        Lefty media falling over themselves to disrupt the brexit vote. The up up coming rout in the French and German elections will be blamed on Russia, when in fact the people are sick of the liberal fascists in power.

        1. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: Just my two cents...

          "liberal fascists"!!! Oh, my acheing sides!

          Yes, Russia is certainly and undeniably trying to influence the German and French votes, just as they did the US and the Brexit vote (and who knows, maybe the 2015 GE as well?)

          The full -- well, fuller story about Russia and the Referendum is nowhere near told yet. [1] Presumably apart from unknown facts, and facts that are known but can't be revealed without jeopardising sources, it's considered too risky to put that news out yet when people are still in a shouty ranty CAPSLOCK sort of mood. By 2020, as the economic benefits of Brexit are really starting to kick in, people will be a lot more receptive to hearing that actually they were helpless playthings of a highly successful Russian disinformation campaign assisted by the sewer press. Well, remember where you heard it first!

          [1] Even the TV station that was pwned by Fancy Bear for a year has only been muttered about in dark corners. Funny, really, cos you'd think "British TV station was controlled by Russia for a year" would be front page news; Paul Dacre and Murdoch seem to disagree though. I'm sure they know what they're doing, though, and it's all for the good of the country.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Just my two cents...

            '"liberal fascists"!!! Oh, my acheing sides!'

            To make things a bit clearer for you, the intended meaning would be "people who call themselves 'liberals' but are in fact fascists". Apparently many of the political leaders who identify themselves with the Democratic Party like to call themselves liberals, although in fact people like Ron Paul are much closer to genuine British 19th century liberals. (They are often called cranks in the USA, because they have become so very rare).

            Then there are the American "conservatives", generally associated with the Republican Party. Rather oddly, they too behave exactly like fascists.

            Who knew? But among the most distinctive features of a fascist state are the cult of personality, identity politics, extreme militarism, a tendency to attack, invade, and destroy other countries for the fun of it, and an increasingly tight death-grip betwen the corporations and the corporate state. Hmmmm, now which country in the world does that remind you of?

            "Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"

            - Huey ‘The Kingfish’ Long (governor of Louisiana 1928-1935)

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Just my two cents...

          This 'lefty media' thing is a canard, certainly so in the US. The most watched cable news -- by a wide margin -- is Fox, the Murdoch outlet. AM radio is dominated by right-wing talkers which have to be heard to be believed (and you still wouldn't believe it if you did if you weren't American).

          Its true that a lot of people are fed up with the status quo because the got sold a lie. Many of you won't be old enough to understand what you lost and how it came about but suffice to say that the post war consensus of a job, a place to live, decent health care and a safety net to take care of you if you couldn't -- a deal paid for by the sacrifices of millions in WW1 and WW2 -- was sold out for the promise that everyone was to be rich. Thirty five years ago the promise wasn't realized for many (entirely predictable) so people are not surprisingly very annoyed. This is where things get tricky; there's no point in dumping a bunch of corporatists for a bunch of fascists, you're get just as well screwed with the only compensation of having an endless stream of enemies -- foreign and domestic -- to threaten you and keep you focused.

          The Russian hacking thing is a good example of this. We all know the NSA is the world leader in this game (and its worth reading the history of MI6 to get the British perspective). Sure, its likely that the Russians are in there somewhere, but seriously? I'd just a big 'Squirrel!', diverting attention, providing a bogeyman and potentially softening up the public for a more Chinese approach to managing the Internet.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            @martinusher -- Re: Just my two cents...

            I do remember freedom, privacy, the promise of a good life, etc. Most younger than me, don't take these things seriously as they've not seen them. Or at least been old enough to appreciate them when they did.

            Yes, I've heard some of the drivel on AM Radio that passes for "talk radio". Same for Fox and the other networks as all of them have an agenda and shouty people.

            Pity that we've sunk this low. This not the USA that I went to war for back in the 60's.....

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Just my two cents...

            "AM radio is dominated by right-wing talkers which have to be heard to be believed (and you still wouldn't believe it if you did if you weren't American)."

            I have, I didn't and I'm not. And they are so SHOUTY too! Blood pressure medication must be cheap there.

        3. Captain Badmouth

          Re: Just my two cents...

          Two cents is putting a high price on your opinion's worth.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: clarocque@gmail.com

      Protesting and mobilizing against establishment and the democratic process is destabilizing democracy.

      I would argue the ability to actually do these things is the sign you are in a democracy.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: clarocque@gmail.com

        "'Protesting and mobilizing against establishment and the democratic process is destabilizing democracy'.

        "I would argue the ability to actually do these things is the sign you are in a democracy".

        So you are actually saying that, in your opinion, "protesting and mobilizing against... the democratic process" is the sign you are in a democracy.

        When you are in Boots, do you protest and mobilize against it too? What an exciting life you must have.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: clarocque@gmail.com @Archtech

          When you are in Boots, do you protest and mobilize against it too? What an exciting life you must have.

          What the hell are you talking about?

  3. 0laf Silver badge

    Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

    But then for the hacking to have any influence there has to be dodgy dealing to be uncovered.

    As a novel proposal how about having elected members that aren't dodgy crooked bastards for a start.

    By not being a crooked bastard you run a good chance of rendering Russian hacking ineffectual.

    1. Daren Nestor

      Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

      Except reality generally loses to a good story, so the "leaks" don't have to be true, or even scandalous (see John Podesta's risotto recipe, for instance)

      1. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

        "Calomniez, calomniez, il en restera toujours quelque chose"

        (Slander, slander, some of it will always remain)

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

        "Except reality generally loses to a good story..."

        A good concise summary of TFA.

    2. Justicesays
      Unhappy

      Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

      Due to the way political funding works, and the required attributes of a politician in a party based system, it turns out that non-(dodgy crooked bastards) are pretty much incapable of getting elected anyway.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

        If you'd ever got up off your sofa or gaming chair and got involved with a political campaign you'd find that actually there are many, many sincere, honest and well-intentioned MPs of all parties who want to do their honest best job for their constituents, working 80 hour, six day weeks for pay that, frankly, is laughably low. But of course it's much easier to get a few easy upvotes repeating the tired, boring cliched line that they're all fat lazy super-rich crooks only in it for themselves.

        Give it a go some time, you might be surprised.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

          If you'd ever got up off your sofa or gaming chair and got involved with a political campaign you'd find that actually there are many, many sincere, honest and well-intentioned MPs of all parties who want to do their honest best job for their constituents, working 80 hour, six day weeks for pay that, frankly, is laughably low. But of course it's much easier to get a few easy upvotes repeating the tired, boring cliched line that they're all fat lazy super-rich crooks only in it for themselves.

          Nobody doubts that there are many sincere, honest, and well-intentioned MPs around (you also forgot to mention that many of them are rather pleasant people to chat and have a beer with). The problem is that with the party discipline system and whipped votes in the Parliament, it really matters little what an individual MP or her constituents want or think: the party leadership calls the shots, and woe betide any MP who goes againts it.

          From the point of veiw of an ordinary citizen, it is not material whether his or her MP works 5 hours a week or 80[*]. It also does not matter much whether that MP is honest, a crook, a church-goer, a boozer, a woomanizer, or a saint. What matters is whether the said MP acts in the best interests of all his/her constituents (and not just the constituents who voted for him/her) and follows through on the promises made at the election time [**]. With MPs expected to vote with their party most of the time, this is clearly an impossibility.

          As far as MPs being laughably underpaid, that's only true by the banking standards. A back-bencher gets £74K p.a. plus fairly generous (but not lavish) expense allowance for maintaining a second residence and travelling between the constituency and London. There is also a pension plan, and what in effect is a termination allowance in case of a lost reelection. I agree that you won't get rich on this kind of salary - however, it is well in excess of what a software engineer (again outside of the banking sector) or a GP would make in London, and is about the same as a London salary for a full professor at a top-tier university. I hope you will agree with me that any of these occupations require at least as much qualification, intelligence, and hard work as what a back-bencher MP does.

          [*] Incidentally, nobody can remain productive for 80 hours a week, week after week; the experience of the Royal Ordnance factories in WW II was that increasing the work week past 60 hours does not increase production per worker - and that is for a repetitive task, which requires concentration, but not much intellectual involvement. I hope that MPs are rather expected to use their brains, and not their hands!

          [**] Funnily enouth, it is usually impossible to achieve both these goals. Which is yet another reason why single-mandate, first-past-the-post electoral districts are a terrible idea for the electors, but a terrific thing for the political players.

    3. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Don't be a cvnt and there won't be a problem

      "By not being a crooked bastard you run a good chance of rendering Russian hacking ineffectual."

      Mr. 0laf: While I totally agree with what you wrote, I'd add an important caveat: Russian hackers, other state sponsored hackers and hackers in general are also capable of changing the data already present in the victims machines. This would still allow the victims to prove their innocence -e.g. by providing recent backups of the data to forensic investigators-, but this is a time consuming process and wouldn't by itself prevent the bad guys from fabricating a scandal, say, a week before the election, in such a way that the hacking/fabrication couldn't be proved before causing harm, i.e, before the affected election's date.

      Fighting this kind of issue is not an easy task, and would take important efforts, but the good part is that these efforts would not only protect democracy, but also help protect the general public and private companies from these and and other related problems.

      A few examples of measures that would help here would be:

      - First and foremost: Make IT companies responsible for exploits in their software that cause their customer's systems to be hackable. It could start with a small fine and a stern warning for a first offence, and escalate from there into 1% of the IT company's turnover, then a 2%, then... .This way, IT companies would have a real incentive to do things right from the start and designing their software and systems with security in mind.

      - Take similar measures regarding breached companies and organizations that jeopardize their customers data by not exerting due diligence in the protection of said data.

      - Boost the adoption of OSS programs and operating systems, and finance/support OSS.

      - Make damn well sure that ISPs and phone companies can't profit from third parties hacking end customers systems.

      - Add your own suggestions here :-)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I humbly posit that it is the lying, scheming, and thieving schumbags we tend to place in the elected office who destabilize what's left of our democracies. I am sure Russians in general and Putin in particular do not like us too much (after all, we did not give them many reasons to, did we?). I am also quite sure they would not be overly saddened by another example of our ineptitude and inefficiency, but blaming them for anything and everything what's wrong with our societies is just plain silly.

    More to the point, this blame-the-russkies game just makes sure our real problems (like pervasive surveilance, disintegration of the middle class and reemergence of the indentured masses in its stead, the collapse of the meaningful democratic institutions, to say nothing of the environmental deterioration, the impending health-care and pension shortfalls) will get ignored until they can no longer be resolved without a massive social upheaval.

    1. mhenriday
      Pint

      Trompe l'œil

      «More to the point, this blame-the-russkies game just makes sure our real problems (like pervasive surveilance, disintegration of the middle class and reemergence of the indentured masses in its stead, the collapse of the meaningful democratic institutions, to say nothing of the environmental deterioration, the impending health-care and pension shortfalls) will get ignored until they can no longer be resolved without a massive social upheaval.» Indeed. But blaming the Russians is cheap and provides the opportunity to channel more funds to the military (not so cheap), from which great profits can be made, while seeing to it that public investments which actually benefit people are derailed, leaving needs either unmet or subject to the vagaries of the so-called «market». A win-win for those who run things, and their mouthpieces in, e g, the media....

      Henri

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "after all, we did not give them many reasons to, did we?"

      Actually we really didn't give them many reason. We funneled a lot of money there to buy gas, oil and other resources and made Putin and his oligarchs rich. And they came happily here to spend their money. Sure, we would have object in a re-invasion of the Baltic Republics, Poland and Ukraine - but Russia is still very large without them - and if money didn't go into buying champagne, expensive cars, foreign villas and palaces, UK football teams and megayachts but invested to create a real Russian economy, they would have had even less reason. Just, nationalism, imperialism and inventing fake external enemies is the best practice in Russian politics (from the tsars times) to keep consensus while avoiding to improve citizens life (and keep the money in a very few hands) - something Trump has just copied. Just like Puting, they have a pure lust for power - which makes them dangerous.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: "after all, we did not give them many reasons to, did we?"

        Actually we really didn't give them many reason.

        Really? Having short memory much?

        Forgotten this picture?

        Let me refresh your memory, we financed it. We financed the non-Russian side, provided it with logistics and support and diplomatic coverage all the way to the UN level.

        Russia showed restraint for 5+ years before acting. Same as they do now.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "after all, we did not give them many reasons to, did we?"

          Oh yes, poor Putin, poor Russia... they were forced to make that havoc in Chechenya... just like they were forced to invade Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic.... also Russia never financed North Vietnam, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, the Arab states against Israel, many African "revolutions", etc. etc...

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: "after all, we did not give them many reasons to, did we?"

            "...just like they were forced to invade Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic.... also Russia never financed North Vietnam, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, the Arab states against Israel..."

            The last bit about 'many African "revolutions' is too vague to respond to, so I won't. Although I think you will find that the number of revolutions financed (and, indeed, organized) by Washington far exceeds any inspired by the USSR.

            Are you seriously complaining about the USSR (not Russia) having "invaded" Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic (actually Czechoslovakia in those days)? Really??? Do you think it would have been better for the Soviets to stay within the borders of the USSR, and leave those nations to be part of Hitler's Grossdeutschland? Honestly?

            No doubt you are also angry that the USA and Britain invaded France - yes, and Italy, Germany and Japan. (The last two of which are still virtually occupied by the USA to this day).

            Were you aware that Czechs, Hungarians and Poles (not to mention Bulgarians and Romanians) fought alongside Hitler's Wehrmacht when it invaded the USSR (including Ukraine) in a determined effort to conquer it and exterminate or enslave all its peoples? (As the USSR won the war, it only lost 27 million dead plus countless wounded and bereaved, and incredible damage to infrastructure).

            When the Soviets began to push the Wehrmacht back, do you think they should have politely stopped when they got to what *had been* the borders of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary and said, "Well now, jolly good, that'll teach you not to invade other people's countries. Don't do it again!"

            As for "Russia never financed North Vietnam, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, the Arab states against Israel...", that is technically true. That was the USSR as well - and don't forget, for many years it was under the close personal supervision of Stalin, who was Georgian.

            But what of it? Have the USA and other NATO members never financed other nations? Has the USA ever exported weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq, Iran (yes - in the days of the Shah) and many, many other countries? Not to mention ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

            And while the USSR did supply weapons, technical advisers and other help to North Korea and North Vietnam, why shouldn't it have? Those nations were desperately fighting for their very existence against US forces that cynically carpet-bombed and defoliated their land, leaving literally millions dead. Indeed, the USA may well have killed more people in Korea and Vietnam alone than died in the Holocaust.

    3. Tom Paine Silver badge

      And I humbly posit that you're talking crap about something you know nothing about.

      Sorry for the intemperate language but it's the laziness of this sort of garbage that really pisses me off. Go join a party and get out there pushing leaflets through some doors, then come back in ten years time and tell us what you think of politicians.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
  6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Bwahahahaha...

    I am old enough to remember when the Internet was referred to as the greatest weapon of Western Democracies against totalitarian regimes. I am also old enough to remember that one of the factors in the decision to open it to civilian use taken by the Pentagon and DARPA was exactly that - to use it as a weapon to break information blockades in totalitarian regimes and to spread "our information".

    Rule number one of handing weapons out: Never give a loaded gun to a man unless you are bloody well sure where he will point it

    Rule number two: Have a bigger gun ready

    We violated both and we are reaping what we sowed. Yet another blowback, just not one we can manage at all under the circumstances (in a hindsight - continuing to transmit rabid tripe via Radio Free Europe and slightly less rabid tripe via BBC Russian Service was a better idea).

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Bwahahahaha...

      Quite true. Dissolving a populace so they flow, and then being surprised everything's going downhill.

      China have already installed kidneys to filter waste from their bloodstream, although we'll probably disagree over their definition of 'waste'.

      Previously our cultural cardiovascular interconnections were simple - faces, phones, mail, media, and you could pretty much choose which you exposed yourself to, and they could be cleaned up to a reasonably high quality, to pump a culture uphill.

      Now, 'clean' sources compete directly (and poorly) with untold numbers simply appealing to base instincts. The tide has risen, and anything unanchored has floated out to sea. And they aren't coming back.

      The current state of the lawless sea isn't even that bad yet. If someone actually properly maps another culture (better than that culture mapped itself), and has the manpower to co-ordinate a realtime assault, you could probably fry/poison/suppress all the critical cultural nodes and harvest the severed connections with a 'quick and easy solution to the sudden problem'. Or just poison it to death. Making nodes not want to reconnect is as easy as cruelty is free. Just ask any girl gamer.

      I'd start with a kindergarten Internet, an inland sea. Re-establish a controlled area with entropy pumps. At least you could keep the kids clean.

  7. hplasm Silver badge
    Devil

    This sounds like...

    Fake News!!!

    (If I understand the concept...)

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: This sounds like...

      Seems to me that there's plenty of blame to go around on all sides. It used to be that we'd park a gunboat in their front yard - nowadays we just send a few packets where it hurts. Nice centrifuge you've got there son, be a shame if something happened to it etc., ad infinitum.

  8. mike acker

    Focus

    Focus: the problem is insecure software.

    as long as it's easy to hack -- hacking will be pervasive.

    we face a question: clean up the software -- or re-think how we use it.

    it's just that simple.

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    BUT ... MUH DEMOCRACY!

    Hot on the heels of "GCHQ cyber-chief slams security outfits peddling 'medieval witchcraft'"

    At the Enigma 2017 conference this week, Dr Ian Levy said world-plus-dog were trying to flog security defenses to tackle "advanced persistent threats," usually using photos of hoodie-cloaked blokes poised over a keyboard with Matrix-style green lettering in the background. But such figures – seen as untouchable, unbeatable, and untraceable – are chimeras, and it’s just “adequate pernicious toe-rags” who are doing the hacking, he argued.

    Do they want to drive us crazy by cognitive dissonance?

    Tell you what, whenever a western worthy is mouthing off about "the democracy" (especially one "threatened by Putin"), democratic process is being hollowed out behind the scenes and there sure is somebody who is going to be shafted soon (generally people recruited into "activism" with unclear objectives). First a little color revolution (currently "pink" seem to be the next color of choice), "our guy" getting installed because of his/her extreme democratic potentialhaving been an insider of the hourse of cards for a long time, then the well-connected consultants move in to seize or sell off assets while the the specter of an external enemy is kept alive ... Sorted!

    1. wolfetone Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: BUT ... MUH DEMOCRACY!

      They turk urr demurcrucurrrrrr!!!

  10. wolfetone Silver badge
    Holmes

    Which chapter of 1984 is this taken from?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Which chapter of 1984 is this taken from?

      The preface.

      The title was wrong, due to an accounting error, is all...

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Which chapter of 1984 is this taken from?

      All of them. It's an instruction manual... err....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So is the UK government legitimate ... or not ?

    Because the logical conclusion of all this, is that they are not.

    Does anyone else get the feeling they haven't thought this through ?

  12. David Shaw

    Guardian.com Nov2016 "Why is MI5 making such a fuss about Russia?"

    summary (from a foreign correspondent):

    1) blaming Russia carries little cost & is/(used to be) aligned with USA policy

    2) UK population seems to be getting more sceptical

    "for all MI5’s warnings, maybe Russia’s time as the UK’s all-purpose fall guy is nearing its end."

    Disclosure: I visited Moscow in 1975, it was grey, smelly & scary.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      > I visited Moscow in 1975, it was grey, smelly & scary.

      Get out of here, Stalker!

      1. David Shaw
        Linux

        oops

        OK, fair-point, wasn't planned. I deleted the various /log/nginx access.log files without reading them.

        I don't have time to map everyone with infosniper.net, and shirley everyone reads El'Reg via TAiLS anyway?

  13. Dan 55 Silver badge

    He might have a point

    But then again I mentally send whatever Michael Fallon says to /dev/null on the basis that if he's actually right for once then someone more credible will repeat whatever it is he's saying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He might have a point

      It's been said already, plenty of times. Just not anywhere where you were paying attention.

  14. Polardog

    Rubbish, stop being sneaky fraudulent self serving gits and you wouldn't have a problem.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Devil

      But if the did that, there wouldn't be anyone in government office (elected) nor anyone owning and running large corporations.

      Icon ---> closest thing to a sarcasm icon.

  15. El Chupanibre

    There is nothing new under the sun

    I am old enough to remember the cold war, the Ruskies were evil their military was the greatest threat to world peace but at the same time, they were a conscript army of drunks with poor quality equipment.

    Red Dawn was out in the cinema, Ronald Reagan said we would start bombing Russia in 5 minutes.

    At the same time Thatcher was killing off the miners and mining communities across the country, and unemployment was at 3 million.

    A Cold War is ideal for jobs and share prices. Make loads of stuff that makes you feel safe and you never use, hopefully. It works every time some economists say without WWII the depression would have lasted for decades.

    ISIS etc. just don't call for the big budget, big profit items. You can't make money out of them as a threat no matter how many latest model Hilux trucks they get.

    We need a proper enemy again, someone for our daily hour of hate on the morning news. Someone with a face which comes from a place that has always been the enemy in the minds of the population.

    In ancient Rome, it was bread and circuses today its the evil Russians and social media.

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: There is nothing new under the sun

      Brilliant analysis, except for one minor problem: businesses make much more money in peacetime than wartime, your sixth-form ideas about the arms trade notwithstanding.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Stop

        Re:businesses make much more money in peacetime than wartime

        Not US businesses. Remember the US came out of WW2 in profit - hence *their* 1950s boom.

        1. Chemical Bob

          Re: Re:businesses make much more money in peacetime than wartime

          It's more likely that our 1950's boom was due to the fact that ours was the only economy not bombed to shit during the war.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: There is nothing new under the sun

        "Brilliant analysis, except for one minor problem: businesses make much more money in peacetime than wartime..."

        That might be true, if it were possible to say at any given time whether we are at peace or at war. A state of uncertainty has set in, in which Western nations behave at home as if they were at peace, and abroad as if they were at war. Then they get violently indignant if any microscopic fragment of the wars they have started find their way back to their countries. Since 1945 the USA has not declared war once, yet it has violently attacked dozens of countries and killed millions of people - probably over 10 million.

        This is the ideal condition that American arms manufacturers, in particular, have attained. We are constantly bombarded with dreadful warnings so that we will willingly see our taxes paid to the "defence contractors" for ships, tanks, missiles and aircraft that are then used to kill people overseas - safely out of sight and hearing (we hope). If you will look at the published accounts of American (and British) arms manufacturers since 1990, I don't think you will find that their profits have shrunk noticeably with the ending of the Cold War.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There is nothing new under the sun

          I first downvoted you for being a little too blatantly biased (which rarely helps a debating position, even if it seems to be the default on El Reg), then proceeded to an upvote for teaching me a bit of historical trivia I was not aware of.

          The bit I did not know is this: Since 1945 the USA has not declared war once. To my surprize it indeed appears to be true if Wikipedia is to be believed:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States

          Of course, as set out by the the War Powers Resolution a formal declaration of war is not a requirement for the USA to go to war, so this is firmly in the trivia category.

          Still, it is interesting to know.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well maybe he should reflect on the idiocy of putting hackable smart meters into everyone's homes at vast cost. Of course he won't because all neoliberal decision making doesn't get past thinking 'how do I make some rich person or corporation richer and line my pockets' ?.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You misspelt "neocon" - HTH.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Synonymous

        I think you will find that "neoliberal" and "neoconservative" are effectively synonyms.

        And both of them have a very large element of "con" - in both the English and the French senses.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MSM gets caught lying and propagandizing for generations but it's Russia's fault

    MSM gets caught lying and propagandizing for generations but it's Russia's fault that the people no longer trust them and look elsewhere for their news and information?

    OK sure, sounds doubleplusgood to me. It's Russia's fault our governments have not been representing our interests, ensuring our nations are not having our wages or our financial, human and environmental laws undermined by trade deals, immigration or quick profit for the few. That's all Putin, got it.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While I'm sure everyone is trying this stuff out, I'd say the seriously destabilising stuff is much more likely to be courtesy of our new friend President Bannon than the Russian government.

  19. NonSSL-Login
    Holmes

    Pot calling kettle black

    It's not as if the UK or the US have ever tried to influence elections in other countries, either digitally or otherwise...

    We just shout loudly about other people doing it when it suits us.

  20. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "And no one has any idea what to actually do about it"

    Really?

    Send DNS requests for the .ru TLD to /dev/null for an hour or so after each detected hack. Next day for a couple of hours. Then 4 hours etc.

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      There's a book you should read.

      https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=a_3_iLxxa40C&pg=PT29&lpg=PT29&source=bl&ots=NPBwCnd2Jx&sig=BsU2yWGh0TnFMtJj0XNTwXJXYpk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjm0seun_TRAhUFIcAKHR_HCDcQ6AEIPDAG#v=onepage

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Send DNS requests for the .ru TLD to /dev/null for an hour or so after each detected hack. Next day for a couple of hours. Then 4 hours etc.

      Sounds fair. To be consistent, let's do the same thing for each intrusion attempt from China, Kenia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA, Venezuela, UK, and so on.

      How long do you think it will take before the only active tlds remaining in service will be .aq and .cat?

  21. Rob D.

    Unsurprising

    Whether Russia, China, US or any other powerful entity (nations, companies, etc) has/is or has/is not trying to influence any particular aspect of our democractic lives is kind of moot - the capability exists, there is ample evidence that this happens for various combinations of aggressor/defender, and the UK, like most countries, should have a governing strategy in this area. There will inevitably be the required public pontification on the current preferred bogey man to maintain public support for spending.

    Given this is all feasible and there is a lack of tangible culpability, isn't it reasonable to assume most nations whose governments can either get away with it or can stand the criticism/backlash if any aspect becomes known (public or not), will be whole-heartedly indulging in these practices?

  22. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Bah

    The Republican Party demonstrated its loss of direction by fielding candidates who actually lost to Donald Trump. The Democratic Party demonstrated its lack of ideas by fielding a candidate who actually lost to Donald Trump. With candidates like that, who needs Russian help?

    Also, Fox News and related media made a huge, quarter-century investment in vilifying Hillary Clinton. I don't. Wikileaks and any possible Russian buddies are late-comers and pikers in comparison.

  23. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It also bears reminding

    ...one of the biggest "hacks" of "democracy" was the invasion and abrasion of a couple of countries that had scant to do with either 9/11 or with "weapons of mass destruction". The perps of this are still free, appearing on TV or writing from think-tanks instead of getting their just deserts. Adding the Lybian adventure and the Syrian democracy enhancement to the list would provide for "equal opportunity" in the court visitation department, too. Not entirely unsurpisingly, Russia seems to have nothing to do with any of those instrumentations. Fancy that.

    Also, what happened to the story about “Taking Down” British Officials? Memoryholded, too?

  24. Chemical Bob
    WTF?

    "weaponising misinformation"

    When I were young it was just called lying.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: "weaponising misinformation"

      Yes, but there has been a major technical advance since then. Nowadays you accuse the people who are telling the truth of lying. Neat, eh?

  25. Archtech Silver badge

    Incoherent accusations

    'The UK defence secretary has accused Russia of using hacking to destabilise the West.

    Sir Michael Fallon said the Kremlin is "weaponising misinformation"'.

    I don't think anyone has yet pointed out that those are two entirely different accusations. "Weaponising misinformation", as best I can understand it, seems to mean "telling the truth and thus ruining my painstakingly created castle of lies".

    But that's not "hacking" - by any definition of that sorely misused word.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Destabilise?

    Im not sure the blame is 100% on the Russians. I think they're probably just taking advantage of current sentiment.

    The reason politics in the west is as vulnerable as it appears to be is because of almost a century of power being held by a small group of elites.

    As much as I like to believe the system is democratic I'm not entirely sure it is.

    Our PM in the UK is never democratically electected, only the party is. None of the politicians working beneath the PM are democratically elected either they are chosen by the unelected PM.

    Putting my political bent to one side, Im sure nobody would put a tick in the box for Theresa May were she to be voted in rather than crowbarred in. The woman is awful in every sense of the word.

    The fix for this "democratic hacking" isn't to protect the current system, its been broken for as long as I've existed, the fix is repair the broken system.

    Im not sure how other people feel about the current system in the UK but I think its fucked.

    I think some serious reshuffling needs to be done starting with free access to Eton College and every other institution that seems to spit out politicians.

    If literally anyone could attend these places not just the wealthy we might be in with a shout of producing a credible PM.

    We also need to fix the obvious inbreeding going on in the Labour Party, for some reason they keep cranking out weird looking bucktoothed buffoons. I can only surmise that the party members are fucking each other and have been for generations.

    Oh and nuke the royal family. Its amazing that the TV shows featuring benefits scroungers never get the biggest spongers in Britain on the show.

    Fuck the people getting 6 bedroom houses for free. What about the ones getting castles and palaces for free?

  27. Archtech Silver badge

    George Galloway sums it up clearly (as usual)

    Whatever you think of his politics - and I often disagree with them - George Galloway hit the nail on the head here.

    https://www.rt.com/op-edge/376302-michael-fallon-speech-russia/

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other words...

    They do it better than he does, so Ruskies bad!

    Look over there, more smoke and mirrors.

  29. Nocroman

    Stopping hackers

    Add an ever changing program to all U.S. Government computers that generates a new password daily. Supply all government computer workers with a flash drive that they have to turn in at the end of every day and can only pick up and use from security each morning. (No flash drive can be removed from the buildings as they have a signal that will sound an alarm if the are taken through the exits. The flash drives will be updated on a closed system every night with the new updated password which the users will never know or have access to on that flash drive. Master password will be stored with the president of the United States of America or the vice president if the president leaves the country on a visit to another country. Master password will allow override to enter government computer system in case of lost or stolen flash drive. new password issued that night will make flash drive useless and the entire system can be shut down if a flash drive is unaccounted for, losing only the rest of that day of access to all government computers. Password issued by the computer each day is unbreakable by anyone in the day the computer generated it.

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