Is Putin Planning a Cyber Attack? The director of one of the United Kingdom’s top spy agencies warned that Russia is looking to target the U.S., NATO, and European Union countries with cyberattacks for their ongoing support of Ukraine.
Putin’s Cyberwarfare Plan
The war in Ukraine isn’t going well for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. The Russian military has suffered failure after failure in Ukraine, losing thousands of troops, tanks, aircraft, and vehicles in the process.
Russia and Putin are becoming an international pariah as NATO wants to add new members. Sweden and Finland have decided to shed hundreds of years of non-alignment and join the transatlantic military alliance.
It seems that cyberwarfare remains the one warfighting domain in which Russia can truly be effective and a tool Putin can leverage. And the West knows that.
In a cyber security conference, Sir Jeremy Fleming, the director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), warned that the Russian military and intelligence services are searching for targets in the West to potentially attack with cyberweapons.
“We’re seeing it in cyber too. Perhaps, the concept of a ‘cyber war’ was over-hyped. But, there’s plenty of cyber about, including a range of activity we and partners have attributed to Russia. We’ve seen what looks like some spill over of activity affecting other countries. And we’ve seen indications that Russia’s cyber operatives continue to look for targets in countries that are opposing their actions,” the GCHQ director said.
GCHQ is the signals and cyber intelligence agency of the U.K. and an equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Is Putin Thinking Cyberattack?
On the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian hackers launched a cyberattack against the Ukrainian military’s secure communications in an attempt to frustrate or takedown altogether its command and control (C2) functions.
The idea was to prevent commanders from effectively and timely communicating with one another and their troops as the Russian ground and air forces were launching their operations. However, the attack spilled over and took down satellite communications in other countries, disrupting operations and internet service for thousands.
“Today, in support of the European Union and other partners, the United States is sharing publicly its assessment that Russia launched cyber attacks in late February against commercial satellite communications networks to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had spillover impacts into other European countries. The activity disabled very small aperture terminals in Ukraine and across Europe. This includes tens of thousands of terminals outside of Ukraine that, among other things, support wind turbines and provide Internet services to private citizens,” the U.S. Department of State stated last week in a press release.
In addition to that cyberattack, the Russian intelligence services had been targeting Ukraine with repeated cyberattacks in the years and months before the invasion.
“The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) assesses that the Russian Military Intelligence was almost certainly involved in the 13 January defacements of Ukrainian government websites and the deployment of Whispergate destructive malware. The NCSC also assesses that it is almost certain Russia was responsible for the subsequent cyber-attack impacting Viasat on 24 February,” the U.K. government announced.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.