US ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report

US ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report
© Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. is reportedly ramping up attacks on Russia's electric power grid. 

The move is a warning to Moscow of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to unleash cybertools in a more aggressive manner, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing current and former government officials. 

The officials told the newspaper that the U.S. was deploying computer code within Russia's grid and other targets along with other actions to combat Russian disinformation and hacking in the 2018 elections. 

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Proponents of the action reportedly said it was warranted given alerts from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russia had inserted malware that could hurt U.S. power plants, oil and gas pipelines and water supplies. 

The administration did not tell The Times specifically what it was doing under the new authorities that were given to the U.S. Cyber Command by the White House and Congress last year.  

The Cyber Command is the Defense Department branch that coordinates the military's online operations. The Hill has reached out to the Defense Department for comment. 

“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official told The Times. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.” 

Two administration officials told The Times that they did not think President Tump was informed in detail about the move to put implants, code that can be used to surveil or attack, in the Russian grid. 

The newspaper reported that power grids have been a place of battle for several years. 

The Times also noted that national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE said publicly on Tuesday that the U.S. was more widely looking at digital targets in an attempt  “to say to Russia, or anybody else that’s engaged in cyberoperations against us, ‘You will pay a price.’”

The Defense Department declined to comment. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE, denied the report on Twitter. 

He decried The Times' reporting as "a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story."