When British and US officials blamed Russian military hackers for last summer’s NotPetya ransomware attack, they were confirming long-held suspicions among western governments that Russia is stepping up its hostile cyber capabilities.
The announcement in February was consistent with the recent rhetoric of political and military leaders in the UK and the US as the two countries turn up the heat on Russia and other state adversaries they hold responsible for a string of aggressive cyber attacks. “I think we have been watching nation states grow steadily more aggressive in their use of cyber capabilities,” says John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye, a cyber security company.
February brought a second Russia-related cyber security controversy. On February 16 an indictment filed by Robert Mueller, the US special counsel who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections, charged 13 individuals and three entities with conducting “information warfare” against America.
The work of the Internet Research Agency, a Saint Petersburg-based company accused of creating fake news and setting up phoney US social media accounts to attract online political audiences, may not be a cyber attack in the strictest sense. However, it fits a broader pattern of online warfare being waged by Russian president Vladimir Putin to disrupt the west and its institutions.
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