The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA’s) ability to conduct cyber-attacks on other countries got a boost in 2018, after President Donald Trump signed a secret order giving it more freedom.
The presidential finding apparently undid restrictions created by previous administrations, allowing the agency to authorize more of its own operations instead of waiting for White House approval.
According to moguldom.com, which sited unnamed former U.S. officials, it was created to let the U.S. go on the offensive against “adversarial countries” like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and others. Since the order was signed, the CIA has reportedly carried out at least a dozen operations that were on its “wish list.”
This reportedly involved “hack-and-dump” operations similar to the ones conducted by Russian hackers and WikiLeaks, where stolen documents or data are deliberately leaked online.
Another key change with the authorization is it lessened the evidentiary requirements that limited the CIA’s ability to conduct covert cyber operations against entities like media organizations, charities, religious institutions or businesses believed to be working on behalf of adversaries’ foreign intelligence services, as well as individuals affiliated with these organizations, according to former officials.
“Before, you would need years of signals and dozens of pages of intelligence to show that this thing is a de facto arm of the government,” a former official told Yahoo News. Now, “as long as you can show that it vaguely looks like the charity is working on behalf of that government, then you’re good.”
The CIA has been looking for an expansion of its cyber powers for a number of years. Since the 2016, the agency has been searching for ways to hit back against the Kremlin, following reported Russian interference in the 2016 election.
A current official, who did not discuss the specifics of the finding, said the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon “have been able to play like we should be playing in the last couple years.”