The Australian Centre for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales Canberra has flagged the cyber-attack on the U.S. Presidential election as a major escalation in "internet terror" directed at the liberal democracies by non-state actors, and possibly by states themselves.
The term "internet terror" is used in newspapers in China to describe the practice of using leaked information that is posted to the world wide web to negatively affect political careers and personal lives of opponents. The practice often leads to criminal prosecutions of corrupt officials but on occasion is also simply malicious.
"The publication last Friday through Wikileaks of 19,252 emails from the leadership of the U.S. Democratic National Committee must have contributed to the statement yesterday by the country's top counter-terrorism adviser that we are seeing a 'revolution' in cyber threats", Professor Greg Austin said, referring to a statement by Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
"By January 2014, it was already clear that states were prepared to use cyber espionage in novel ways to undermine the political legitimacy of their adversaries," Austin said.
"At that time I called out the threat to liberal democracies, especially the United States, from that practice. After the attack on the DNC and its now revealed impact on the Democratic Party at a critical juncture in the political cycle, it seems all countries will need new responses."
Yesterday, the White House released a new Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on responses to cyber incidents of national security significance.
"The new PPD, which calls for retaliatory action if appropriate, will be severely tested as the FBI conducts its investigation into the hack of the Democratic Party since Russia has been implicated by some in the attack", Austin said.
"Regardless of the perpetrator, the use of cyber espionage to release the DNC data trove on the presidential campaign represents a new level of threat to international security by undermining legitimacy of key actors at the highest level of national and international politics."