Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg last year.
Mikhail Metzel—TASS
By Robert Hackett
July 14, 2018

Happy weekend, Cyber Saturday readers.

On Friday, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election issued an indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of conspiring to obstruct American democracy. The indictment, which you can read here, reconstructs in granular detail the alleged actions of meddling spies: who took part in the plot, what they hacked, how they stole and laundered documents, how they tried to cover their tracks, and just about everything else you might want to know. It’s a stunning document—an extraordinary record of the ongoing FBI investigation’s findings to date.

Shortly after Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announced the indictment during a news conference, another senior administration official delivered a grave warning. Daniel Coates, director of national intelligence, told an audience at the Hudson Institute think tank that the “warning lights are blinking red again,” per the New York Times’ report. He said the last time the nation encountered this frequency and intensity of threat indicators was two decades prior, in the lead-up to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. While Coates name-checked North Korea, China, and Iran during his talk, he noted that “Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor, no question.” (Look no further than Ukraine, whose security services claimed this week to have thwarted a Russian cyberattack targeting a water treatment plant.)

Next week President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. There’s no paucity of subjects to discuss—Crimea, Syria, Europe, economic sanctions, assassination attempts, extradition of the indicted Kremlin spies. But anyone hoping for a resolution to the election interference plot is sure to be disappointed. Putin has repeatedly denied Russia’s involvement. And as Trump already told reporters during Thursday’s tense NATO summit in Brussels, “all I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ and ‘Don’t do it again.'”

“I don’t think you’ll have any, ‘Gee, I did it, you got me,’” Trump said a day later, just hours before the indictments were issued.

He’s right. Putin is unlikely to have a sudden change of heart, despite the indictments. Even if the presidential tête-à-tête doesn’t result in any perps being brought to justice, the preemptive naming-and-shaming will at least, one hopes, force foreign actors to think twice before committing similarly egregious transgressions. Anyone plotting a similar ruse should expect to be uncovered. The message is clear: the U.S. sees you.


While Trump is meeting the Russian President, another summit of power players will be taking place on the other side of the world. On Monday, Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference will be kicking off in Aspen, Colo. There I’ll be interviewing two of America’s fiercest digital defenders on the main stage: Jen Easterly, global head of Morgan Stanley’s cybersecurity fusion center and former counter-terrorism lead under Obama, and Jay Kaplan, cofounder and CEO of Synack, a startup that hires hackers to root out organizations’ security vulnerabilities. I’ll report on the conversation next week.

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my, PGP encrypted email (see public key on my, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


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