Russian cyber attacks and cyber warfare capabilities come under the spotlight during the EW Europe conference
Professor David Stupples, professor of electronic and radio systems and director of Electronic Warfare (EW) research at London’s City University introduced his paper entitled ‘Russia 21st Century Warfare Paradigm: Advances in Electromagnetic and Cyberspace Operations and Information Warfare’ at this year’s Electronic Warfare Europe conference being held in Lausanne between 5 and 7 June with a bold statement: “Many of our senior commanders just don’t get it (cyber warfare), their focus is on kinetic warfare. The majority of our politicians don’t understand it, and so Russia keeps extending its lead.”
Reflecting on the Russian government’s efforts to destabilise nations in the West, particularly through the use of cyberattacks, Prof. Stupples was keen to emphasise that all nations need to become cognisant to the potential threat posed by Russian cyber activity: “I want to provoke more discussions,” he told delegates, quoting the maxim of the French strategist, military leader and politician Napoleon Bonaparte who argued that “90 percent of warfare is information.” Expanding on this, Prof. Stupples argued that “information effects everything. The way a nation operates, its democracy and its business, and information is in turn reliant on communications. If communications are attacked it affects the well-being of a country, not only of the military.”
While details regarding alleged Russian interference in the US Presidential Election of 2016, and the UK referendum on membership of the European Union during the same year have emerged over the past twelve months, the temptation for autocratic regimes to continue using cyberspace as a theatre for causing internal political and economic disruption within a state may only increase. Of particular concern in this regard, Prof. Stupples underscored, is the proliferation of the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ (IOT). The IOT is defined by the wiley.com website as, “the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and connectively which enables these things to connect and exchange data.” Prof. Stupples believes that “the IOT is the paradigm shift. Everything will be connected and this IOT becomes huge. They say there are 30 billion things which will be connected, I feel that it will be more like 100 billion.” The impact of a major cyberattack being performed in the IOT era is palpable. “Mr. Putin loves this, he feels that this could be the tool of the West’s destruction.”
In terms of Russia’s modus operandi regarding cyberattacks, Prof. Stupples told delegates that these are effectively “outsourced” by the Kremlin to criminal organisations who are left free to perform nefarious activities beyond Russia to raise revenues and perform cyberattacks on the Russian government’s behalf in return for the government turning a blind eye on their criminal activities. Prof. Stupples concluded by posing a question regarding what governments and counter-intelligence agencies are doing around the world to blunt the effectiveness of Russia’s cyber warfare potential.