NewsExpert warns: Russia's cyber prowess targets Europe without physical force

Expert warns: Russia's cyber prowess targets Europe without physical force

Almost 70 percent of Polish enterprises fell victim to various types of cyber attacks in 2021.
Almost 70 percent of Polish enterprises fell victim to various types of cyber attacks in 2021.
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Polskie firmy na celowniku

12:44 PM EDT, March 20, 2024

Russia is widely recognized as a top-tier cybernetics expert capable of attacking crucial infrastructure in Europe without resorting to physical means, according to Christopher Porter, a former security advisor to US Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Now serving as the Head of International Cooperation in Security at Google Cloud, Porter observed that the Russian military has met its objectives in Ukraine in instances where Western support for Kyiv has weakened.

"The Kremlin is keen to avoid an escalation of conflict with NATO. As such, it employs information operations and espionage in a manner that allows it to achieve its goals in Ukraine without broadening into a wider conventional conflict with NATO," he explained.

Porter highlighted that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was initiated with cyber attacks on the financial sector, preceding the conventional military attack. "The conflict in Ukraine began not with tanks crossing borders but with cyberattacks on the financial industry a few days before the physical invasion," he remarked.

The west should be prepared

In discussing the lessons the West should learn from these events, Porter emphasized that technical cyber resilience is essential but not sufficient. "The resilience displayed by Ukrainian citizens was paramount. They successfully resisted the cyber assaults without capitulating to the invaders," he stated.

Porter noted the Russian forces' caution towards NATO countries since the conflict in Ukraine started. "For instance, in disrupting satellite communications, they avoid attacking NATO member states' satellites directly, aiming to be prepared for any potential conflict. This includes espionage to gauge NATO forces' positions," he shared.

Russia doesn't need to attack physically

The cyber threat Russia poses is significant and immediate, Porter stressed. "Russia's capacity as a first-rate cyber power enables it to target key European infrastructure without physical attacks. Their cyber capabilities are formidable," he warned.

Beyond targeting infrastructure, Porter pointed out that Russia also focuses on Western societies, disseminating misinformation, and pro-Russian propaganda online. "One must recognize the dual purpose of such cyber activities. They avoid direct escalation while warning opponents and aiming to demoralize citizens," he added.

Poland facing cyber assaults from two fronts

Porter discussed Poland's challenging position, facing heightened cyber attacks from Russia and Belarus. "Using national resources, including technology, intelligence, and cultural expertise, these countries can target not just military and governmental entities but also civilians and small businesses," he explained.

Russian hacker activities surge

Highlighting the escalation of Russian-supported hacker activities, Porter mentioned a significant increase leading up to and following the Ukraine invasion. "In 2021, ahead of the invasion, there was a marked uptick in cyber activities. The attacks on Ukrainian users surged by 250 percent from 2020, while those targeting NATO countries rose by over 300 percent," he observed.

"The continuity of the Ukrainian government heavily relies on Western support. Without it, the cybernetic advantage could potentially tilt in Russia's favor," he added.

See also