Hack, disinform, deny: Russia’s cybersecurity strategy

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MOSCOW: Over the years, Moscow has faced numerous allegations of cyberattacks that resulted in multiple sanctions and the expulsion of its diplomats. The term “hacker” has almost become synonymous with Russia.

From “troll factories” to hackers allegedly controlled by the country’s security services, here is an overview of the world of Russian cybercrimes:


Russia has for decades been a breeding ground for computer experts. During Soviet times, the government pushed for advances in science and technology, and – with the appearance of the first computers – in programming.

With the fall of the USSR in 1991, some of the talented but underpaid programmers turned to cybercrime, soon making Russians notorious for credit card thefts around the world.

“In the 90s, the environment fermented, with a culture of resourcefulness and a tendency to circumvent the rules,” said Kevin Limonier, of the French Institute of Geopolitics.

Army and security services

Experts say that in its persisting stand-off with the West, Russia heavily relies on its cyber and information warfare capabilities.

Several notorious hacking groups are suspected of working for the country’s security services, and the Russian defence ministry established its own “cyber units” in 2012.

The first large-scale attack attributed to Russia goes back to 2007, when the Baltic state of Estonia faced a wave of cyberattacks on its newspapers, banks and government ministries.

The United States says that hackers of Russia’s military intelligence (GRU) sought to manipulate the 2016 presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The most famous cyberespionage group involved in dozens of cases is known as Fancy Bear or APT28. It is believed to be sponsored by the Russian government.

According to Washington, the attack targeting US software developer SolarWinds was carried out by the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, and compromised government agencies and hundreds of private companies.

Information and sabotage

“Cyberattacks carried out by…