Russian state hackers are increasingly attacking targets outside Ukraine. Since the outbreak of war in the neighbouring country, Russian hackers have attacked 128 organizations in 42 countries. The main target was the United States, but various NATO countries were also victims of cyber attacks from Russia.
That writes Brad Smith, president and vice president of Microsoft, in a blog.
The role of technology in current wars
One of his conclusions is that technology plays a greater role than ever in modern warfare. “Countries are waging wars using the latest technology, and the wars themselves are accelerating technological change. It is therefore important to continuously evaluate the influence of the war on the development and use of technology,” said the CEO.
The Russian cyberwarfare, Smith said, consists of three parts: (1) carrying out devastating cyber attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure, (2) penetrating and stealing sensitive data outside Ukraine, and (3) influencing public opinion, both domestically. as outside.
The international community should not be misled and look to “accurate data” to see how it can stand up to the threat of Russian state hackers. To this end, the American hardware and software company has listed the most important lessons of the past few months.
NATO countries increasingly target Russian hackers
By the end of April, two months after the invasion of the first Russian tanks, Russian state hackers had already carried out hundreds of cyber attacks, Microsoft reported at the time. The Cyclops Blink malware attack on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and the attack on satellite network KA-SAT are just two examples. Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) saw the number of spam and phishing campaigns by Russian hackers rise during that period.
The threat from Russian hackers is much greater, Smith says. He writes that since the war broke out, 128 organizations in 42 countries have been targeted by Russian state hackers. The US was the main target, but certainly not the only one. Poland was also in the running, probably because the delivery of military and humanitarian aid from that country was coordinated.
In the past two months, the Baltic states and NATO countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey have also been targeted by Russian hackers. The cyber attacks mainly targeted government services. However, the attackers also targeted think tanks, humanitarian organizations, IT companies, utility providers and other vital sector agencies.
Europe lags behind US in cybersecurity
Microsoft security officials have calculated that 29 per cent of Russian attacks were successful. In a quarter of the victims, sensitive and confidential data was actually stolen. The share is probably higher because not all affected institutions use cloud services.
The hardware and software company notes that “significant progress” has been made and that government bodies, companies and organizations have increased their cybersecurity. “But the implementation of these advances has been less implemented in European governments than in the United States. As a result, significant collective defensive weaknesses remain,” Microsoft warns.
More fake news spread since the start of the war
Finally, Smith writes in the blog that he is concerned about the spread of fake news, disinformation and manipulation of public opinion by Russia. Foreign influence campaigns today have greater reach than ever. In addition, they are more accurately targeted than ever before and fake messages are spread at a higher speed. Fake news is not limited to Russia: the American, Ukrainian and European populations are also sensitive to it.
Russia has a structured approach to this. “They [Advanced Persistent Manipulators] pre-post false stories in a manner similar to pre-posting malware and other software code. They then launch broad and simultaneous ‘reporting’ of these stories from government-operated and influenced websites and amplify their stories through technological tools designed to leverage social media services,” explains Microsoft.
Russian influence operations have exploded since the beginning of the war. In Ukraine, the share of fake news rose by 216 per cent, in the US by 82 per cent. Microsoft promises to keep a close eye on developments in the coming weeks and months.
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