Updates

Cyberconflict

2019

The report by special counsel Robert Muller on Russian influence on the US presidential elections in 2016 was published in the redacted form on April 18. The document among other things describes steps taken by Russian military officers from GRU and information campaigns organized by Internet Research Agency (IRA) in social networks.
It was investigated that GRU officers sent malicious links to several accounts linked to to the domain of Hillary Clinton's personal office to gain the access to the emails hours after Donald Trump in his campaign sarcastically called Russia to track down missing Clinton's emails with sensitive state information.
Secondly, the Mueller’s team identified that IRA organized several political rallies in the US in support of Trump’s campaign using social media and coordinating this rallies through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Moreover, messages created by IRA accounts were promoted and amplified by the Trump campaign officials. It led to the public discord in social media.
Finally, the report concludes that Democratic National Committee leaks that GRU obtained and retailed through its DCLeaks and WikiLeaks represented much more interference. The information campaigns though offered some benefit for the Trump campaign, but the investigation did not identify evidence that any US persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with IRA members.

 

The foreign ministers of G7 countries adopted the ‘Dinard Declaration on the Cyber Norm Initiative’, following a discussion on defence of democracies against foreign interference and on the responsible behaviour of states in cyberspace. The initiative’s aim is to encourage voluntary exchange of information, best practices, and lessons learned on implementation of voluntary, non-binding norms of responsible state behavior.  In a joint communique, the ministers committed to countering malicious cyber activities of North Korea and bolstering capabilities in order to address cybersecurity threats from Russia. They also encouraged China to uphold its commitments not to engage in malicious cyber activity, including cyber-enabled intellectual property theft with the intent of providing advantages.

Venezuela has announced a cyber-attack on its hydroelectric power operations caused power outage in the country. The cyber-attack was attributed to the USA by President Maduro as an act of ‘the electric war announced and led by the US imperialism against our people’ on Twitter. This was promptly denied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Maduro stated that Venezuela suffered another cyber-attack on 9 March. On 11 March, the Venezuelan government ordered US diplomatic personnel to leave Venezuela in 72 hours, as their presence ‘represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country’. The US Department of State has confirmed it is withdrawing its personnel on 11 March. The electric service was restored on 12 March and stabilised in its entirety within the following days. Maduro announced that a special commission will be created to investigate the cyber-attack, with Venezuela asking for the support of the UN and countries with experience in cyber-attacks such as China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba. He also revealed that the attack originated from US cities Chicago and Houston. On 13 March, Maduro stated the sabotage was threefold, and included a cyber-attack on the central hydro plant Guri, an electromagnetic attack on the transmission lines and physical attacks to substations to generate fires and short circuits. Experts, on the other hand, consider the lack of proper maintenance and negligence to be the cause ot the power outage. On 21 March, Maduro stated that the electric war continues.

The US Cyber Command conducted a cyber-attack on Russian’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to prevent it from conducting a defamatory campaign during 2018 midterm elections in the USA, according to the The Washington Post (WP). US officials told the newspaper, on condition of anonymity, that they were able to cut IRA off the Internet for several days. The Russian President’s Press Secretary, however, questioned the reliability of WP sources. The Russian Federal News Agency (FAN) claimed that FAN was the actual victim of the attack, since it had sent employees of its subsidiary, USAReally, to the USA to observe the midterm elections. FAN said it is not connected to the IRA, does not interfere with elections or conduct other illegal activities. Its internal investigation concluded that the USA failed to cut FAN off the Internet; parts of the server that were disabled were promptly replaced, and new mirrors created for USAReally continued working as usual.

The US Navy published the ‘Navy Cryptologic & Cyber Warfare Community Vision’. The document states that the network is a warfighting platform and that the Navy must commit to strengthening the Information Warfare Enterprise. The Navy must win ‘the counter-C5ISRT challenge’ and be prepared to simultaneously defend and attack, as well as hold the enemy’s space at risk.

Microsoft has expressed confidence that the attacks targeting democratic European institutions between September and December 2018 were conducted by Strontium cyber-espionage group, also known as Fancy Bear and APT28, which is often associated by research community to Russian military intelligence agency (GRU). The attacks targeted democratic institutions, campaigns, think tanks and non-profit organizations in Europe whose work relates to democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy and that are often in contact with government officials. The spear-phishing attacks targeted 104 accounts belonging to organisations’ employees located in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Serbia.

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