Russia is stepping up Cyber Attacks against Ukraine's European allies

World » RUSSIA | March 30, 2023, Thursday // 11:59
Bulgaria: Russia is stepping up Cyber Attacks against Ukraine's European allies @Flickr

Russia's cyber war against Ukraine has largely failed, and Moscow is increasingly targeting Kyiv's European allies, US and French analysts say.

French defense firm Thales said in a report that Russia is striking Poland, the Nordic and Baltic countries with an arsenal of cyber weapons aimed at sowing division and promoting anti-war messages.

In a threat assessment earlier this month, Microsoft said that in the first six weeks of this year, Russian actors had carried out attacks in at least 17 European countries.

Russia's offensive against Ukraine began on February 24 last year, but the military giant has failed to score a decisive battlefield victory over its much smaller neighbor.

Thales and Microsoft said Russia's incursion was accompanied by large-scale cyberattacks in Ukraine, but they were repelled.

"The cyber war has not delivered the decisive blow that Russia had hoped for," Thales technical director for cyber defense Ivan Fontarensky told AFP, stressing the resilience of Ukrainian defenses.

Both firms said Russia shifted its focus to other European countries late last year.

"In the third quarter of 2022, Europe was engaged in a high-intensity hybrid cyber war at a turning point in the conflict," said Pierre-Yves Jolivet, Thales' vice president for cyber solutions.

"Hacktivist" groups

Jolivet said countries outside of Ukraine were suffering from a "massive wave" of DDoS attacks, in which the server was flooded with requests that brought down the network. These attacks are increasingly carried out by "hacktivist" groups linked to the Kremlin, rather than official groups, and aim to cause chaos rather than destroy infrastructure, Thales said.

Among the countries most affected are Poland, Latvia and Sweden, the Thales report said.

In its assessment, Microsoft says that attacks this year in Europe have mostly targeted government organizations for the purpose of espionage.

Underscoring the global reach of Russian actors, the firm said 21 percent of attacks outside Ukraine since the start of the war have targeted the United States.

While the attacks outside of Ukraine have often been low-level harassment, Microsoft has said that Russia may choose more damaging cyber tools in the future.

"If Russia suffers more battlefield setbacks, Russian actors may seek to expand their targeting of military and humanitarian supply chains by launching disruptive attacks outside of Ukraine and Poland," Microsoft said.

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