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US Military Hackers Poised to Retaliate if Russia Disrupts Election

US military intelligence is in position to “hack back” should Russia attempt to disrupt the US presidential election on Tuesday—or threaten US assets in any other way.

According to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News, US hackers have points of entry into Russia's electric grid, telecom networks and even the Kremlin's command systems. However, cyber-weapons would only be deployed if the US was attacked in a significant way.

American officials believe that Russia is planning the possible release of fake documents and the proliferation of misinformation via social media accounts in the hours leading up to the election. Attacks on critical infrastructure or vote-tampering is not expected, sources said—but should such a thing happen, the US is in position to retaliate.

Last week, the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0—which has ties to the Kremlin, according to US officials—tweeted that he/she/they would be monitoring the US elections "from inside the system." And, sources have long said that Russia continually probes American networks, leaving behind cyber-espionage malware and more.

Having back doors open within Russian systems is just a virtual form of military scouting and reconnaissance work, explained Gary Brown, a retired colonel and former legal adviser to US Cyber Command.

"You'd gain access to a network, you'd establish your presence on the network and then you're poised to do what you would like to do with the network," he told NBC News. "Most of the time you might use that to collect information, but that same access could be used for more aggressive activities too."

Any response would be proportionate to the attack, and so far, the Obama Administration has been restrained in response to what it says has been Russian hacks on the DNC and other political targets in the lead-up to Election Day. That could however all change, quickly.

“Cyber war is undefined," Brown said. "There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those."

Photo © rzoze19

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