Monday 14 October 2019

US cyber attacks story 'treason', says Trump

US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis
US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis

Julie Allen

Donald Trump has angrily denied a newspaper article claiming the US had set up a potentially devastating cyber attack on Russia's electric grid, describing its publication as a "virtual act of treason".

According to a three-month investigation by 'The New York Times', sophisticated malware has been secretly embedded in the Russian electricity system - to be activated to plunge the country into darkness in the event of a major confrontation.

The president denied the report yesterday and called the newspaper "cowards" and the "enemy of the people".

The outburst came as it emerged Mr Trump may not have been informed of an escalation of digital incursions into Russia's infrastructure in what is seen as a warning to Vladimir Putin to refrain from meddling in the US.

Pentagon and intelligence sources revealed to the newspaper a hesitation to give detailed briefings to Mr Trump for fear of his reaction, and that he may inadvertently disclose their strategy.

On Saturday night, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "Do you believe that the failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing cyber attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our country. Also, not true!"

New powers were granted to US Cyber Command, the Defence Department branch responsible for cyberspace operations, last summer, giving it greater autonomy to conduct its operations without presidential knowledge.

Last week John Bolton, Mr Trump's national security adviser, said Russian digital targets were being considered.

"The purpose of which is to say to Russia or anybody else that's engaged in cyber operations against us, 'You will pay a price if we find that you are doing this'," he said.

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