Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Russia and Cyber Attacks

A colleague pointed me to an article in the Baltic Security and Defence Review, an annual publication of the Baltic Defence College (international staff college for military officers at OF3-OF5 ranks). MAJ William Ashmore (US Army) writes an overview of recent cyber conflicts with Russia, titled "Impact of Alleged Russian Cyber Attacks" [pdf].

While the article covers a lot of ground it seems that he is not a subject matter expert in cyber conflicts. The quality of the references is relatively weak (mostly public news media) and there are a few simple errors. On the other hand, he has done a fairly broad background check for the legal/doctrinal work done at OSCE, UN etc.

He provides an overview of events in Estonia 2007 and Georgia 2008 among others, and a summary of NATO's activities in setting up cyber defence. He spends some time on Herman Simm's case (highly placed spy for Russians in Estonian MoD, caught 2008), although to me his arguments there seem a bit weak.

He reviews the national and international responses/comments to the Russian cyber campaigns, including potential attribution. There is also a fairly interesting chapter about future trends in Russian cyber activities (including Dr Panarin's recommendations). I think he may be onto something when he says that in Russia, cyber is mostly seen as an offensive capability.

With the US primarily focused on the Chinese cyber threat, the Russian (and other) cyber studies remain in the background. Therefore, it is a refreshing piece of reading, regardless of some issues with depth or quality. As always, read the article for full info.

Happy holidays!


  1. "...The quality of the references is relatively weak (mostly public news media)..."

    You probably have covert channels and very strong references, and never read newspapers, articles, and blogs. Happy holidays!

  2. Actually, I do read newspapers, articles and blogs. However, I still think that academic writing should use stronger references, if possible.