The U.S. military successfully disrupted a Russian troll farm on the day of the 2018 midterm elections using a new authority granted to them under the Trump administration.
The U.S. Cyber Command blocked the internet access of the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based operation seeking to interfere with U.S. elections, officials told The Washington Post.
“They basically took the IRA offline,” one person close to the matter told the Post. “They shut ’em down.”
The disruption was intended to prevent the Internet Research Agency from casting doubt on midterm election results using disinformation and was apparently so successful that trolls working for the website complained to system administrators.
In September, the White House gave the military the authority to launch offensive cyber attacks on foreign adversaries meddling in U.S. affairs. National security adviser John Bolton explained that the specific presidential order was classified, but more aggressive than previous policies during the Obama administration.
Bolton said the move would “create structures of deterrence that will demonstrate to adversaries that the cost of their engaging in operations against us is higher than they want to bear.”
The order was just part of the White House’s efforts to both punish and deter foreign actors, particularly Russia, after they launched a campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The Trump administration sanctioned 19 Russian nationals last March for their role in election meddling and cyber attacks against the U.S. (RELATED: Trump Sanctions Russian Nationals For Meddling In 2016 Presidential Election)
The administration’s aggressive response to cyber-meddling seems to stand in contrast to that of the Obama administration, which was reportedly warned about Russia’s intentions to disrupt elections as early as 2014. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice allegedly told the administration’s cybersecurity chief to “stand down” in response to Russian meddling.