When Russian Cyber Operations Targeted The West

(MENAFN- Asia Times) This is part five of a series, 'Lessons from the first cyberwar.'
Read part one ,
part two ,
part three and part four .

After gaining initial exposure to cyber operations against Ukraine and Georgia, Russia began expanding its targeting of Western states, especially following Putin's first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Russia wanted to promote instability in Western democracies and to undermine the credibility of the Democratic processes, according to former US ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul .

Following the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russia engaged in smaller-scale distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to take out websites. However, it would grow bolder in its attacks against the West. In 2015, German investigators found that hackers had successfully breached the computer network of the Bundestag, the German parliament.

When Russian Cyber Operations Targeted The West Image

The 2015 Bundestag cyberattack revealed deficiencies in German cyber security. Image: louisjarvers

This was considered the most significant cyberattack in German history due to the importance of the targeted institution, as Germany believed that Russia wanted to steal information to disrupt its democratic elections. In 2016, there was a cyberattack on the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the political party then led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The attackers targeted the CDU to gain access to sensitive information. The primary objective was to acquire account names and passwords of party members, which would grant access to internal communications and potentially confidential data. However, the attack was not successful. But it continued to show Russia that it could wage cyber war against the West without fear of retribution.

Russia has been implicated in a series of cyberattacks against the UK, targeting various sectors. The UK has been one of Ukraine's strongest Western backers since Russia's first invasion in 2014. One of the major cyber operations attributed to Russia was organized by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The UK Government has identified the FSB's Center 18, and its unit Star Blizzard, as being responsible for sustained attempts to interfere in UK politics. This included spear phishing attacks on parliamentarians in a range of political parties from 2015 onwards, hacks of UK–US trade documents before the 2019 general election, and breaches of think tanks and civil society organizations. The attacks aimed to undermine trust in UK politics and democratic processes and leak secret documents.

In 2014, Russian hackers launched an industrial sabotage campaign by targeting oil and gas companies in the West.


Asia Times

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