Russian Cyberthreats

European countries sound the alarm over threat of Russian cyberattacks

WATCH ABOVE: American intelligence officials say they are convinced that Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election was approved by President Vladimir Putin.

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Amid growing outrage in the United States over reports that Russian hackers interfered in the election to help Donald Trump, countries in Europe are warning that cyberattacks and disinformation from Moscow could damage upcoming elections.

Intelligence agencies and high-level officials in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere have all voiced concerns over the threat of cyber sabotage by Russia.

WATCH: Donald Trump and the alleged Russian influence over the U.S. Election

 

The concerns come as the Kremlin denied a report Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how information obtained from hackers was used during the election against U.S. democrats and Hillary Clinton.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) warned that Russia has been cyber-targeting German seeking to create “uncertainty in German society” and to destabilize the country ahead of the country’s federal elections in October 2017.

“In the political arena we see increasing and aggressive cyber espionage,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of BfV, in a statement last week. “We see a potential hazard to members of the German government, the Bundestag and employees of democratic parties through cyber operations.”

The head of Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 said in November that while Russia had been a covert threat for decades, there are currently more methods available for it to pursue its anti-Western agenda.

READ MORE: Did Russia hack the U.S. presidential election? Here’s what we know

Spy agencies in Sweden and France and the Netherlands — both of which have federal elections in the spring of 2017 — also issued similar statements about the increasing Russian cyber threat.

What is Russia’s goal?

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, said there is not only growing apprehension in Europe but also among the Five Eyes — an intelligence alliance between Canada, U.S., U.K.,  Australia and New Zealand.

“This is remarkable,” said Robertson, vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “Countries in Europe with forthcoming elections are very conscious [of the Russia threat].”

WATCH: Russia intervened to help Trump win White House, CIA says

Robertson said Putin’s goal is to expand Russia’s influence on former Soviet countries while undermining members of NATO.

“Russia’s goal is to destabilize the western alliance and to reassert Russia as a great power,” he said. “Putin sees his only means of survival is to continue to expand Russian influence … and cyber espionage is one of his main tools.”

Russia using false news

The spread of fake news and disinformation during the presidential election had many pointing fingers at Russia and now EU countries are worried the troubling trend could affect their democratic processes.

WATCH: Did fake news influence the outcome of the U.S. election?

William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND think tank in Washington and a former U.S. diplomat, told Global News that the spread of false news stories have been a powerful weapon for Russia.

“[Russia] thinks they helped tip the balance in electing Donald Trump and this is only going to encourage them to do more,” Courtney said.

Courtney pointed to a story earlier this year in Germany that stoked immigration fears after a 13-year-old Russian-German teen said she had been raped by migrants. The story was sensationalized by Russian state television but then debunked after the girl admitted to making up the story.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see [political influence campaigns] stepped up in Europe — certainly in Europe — but also in America,” he said.

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton slams ‘epidemic’ of fake news online: ‘Lives are at risk’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her party, the Christian Democratic Union, had been targeted by Russian hackers earlier this year and warned that false information disseminated by Russia could help shift the federal elections toward the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has received a boost in popularity over the migrant crisis.

“We are already, even now, having to deal with information out of Russia or with internet attacks that are of Russian origin or with news which sows false information,” Merkel said at a press conference in in November, according to The Guardian.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the U.S. or Europe. Trump has also dismissed the reports from intelligence agencies and said in a statement the CIA “are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

*With files from Reuters

 

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Cyberspace, North Korea and Sony

North Korea is only part of the story about cyberthreats

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Dec. 23 2014

What should have been another mindlessly entertaining, forgettable holiday flick is now cyberfuel for a much bigger story.

That the Seth Rogan comedy, The Interview, with its Kim Jong-un assassination sub-plot would unleash the hacking of Sony Pictures; that the studio would cancel the picture; that the FBI would name North Korea as the perpetrator; and that U.S. President Barack Obama would vow to “respond proportionately”; has moved it from Hollywood farce to national security crisis.

The first takeaway is the continuing menace posed by North Korea’s Kim dynasty.

Now into its third generation, this rogue regime is characterized by murder, mayhem and ongoing abuse of human rights. In addition to its cyberarsenal, it possesses nuclear arms. An erratic missile capacity means that it threatens Canada (making the case as to why we need ballistic missile defence).

Defining a “proportional response” to “cybervandalism” will be a challenge for the Obama administration. The hermit kingdom is isolated from global financial and commercial markets and there is already a slew of UN sanctions on it.

The Chinese – providing most of North Korea’s food and energy – are best placed to exercise leverage but they are complicit, in league with Russia, Syria, Iran and North Korea in mutual development of their cybercapacities. Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted members of the People’s Liberation Army for corporate cybertheft. These activities included hacking into a Canadian company responsible for protecting North American pipelines and grid systems.

Like dandelions, cyberthreats continue to spread.

Intel Security’s McAfee Labs detect five new threats per second in mobile malware. Malware attacks surged 76 per cent in 2014. McAfee’s 2015 forecast estimates more attacks on mobile devices and the Internet of Things.

McAfee warns of long-term “stealthier information gatherers.” New players will look for new ways to disrupt and steal money. They warn that criminals are beginning to act more like state actors watching and waiting to gather intelligence.

Meanwhile there is continuing debate around technology, threat and privacy.

The revelations from U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden around data harvesting, including the private conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have highlighted privacy concerns about security agencies’ overreach.

In a world of meta-data mining, we all leave a trail of behavioural patterns whenever we go on the Internet.

President Obama rightly described Sony’s decision to pull The Interview as a “mistake.” Bowing to intimidation, Mr. Obama said, is “not who we are.” For enduring satire, Sony executives should watch Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator (1940), parodying Adolf Hitler.

But privacy is different from intimidation. Sony executives’ e-mails are salacious reading but should the media have publicized them? Adam Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, argues that the hackers – “demented and criminal” – do it for a cause, but the press do it “for a nickel.”

Business needs to protect itself and its customers. Credit-card information and intellectual property are main targets but the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warns state-sponsored attackers seek information to give their companies a “competitive edge” over Canadian firms

By design, the Internet is open, dynamic, transparent, interoperable and adaptable to continuous technological improvement. It accesses and ensures the rapid, seamless flow of data and information. Security and identity protection were secondary objectives and this, observed former U.S. deputy defence secretary Bill Lynn, gives attackers a “built-in advantage.”

Apple and Google have recently added encryption features onto their operating systems to make our phones and computers less susceptible to hacking.

They are programmed in such a way as to protect these same companies from decryption, even under court order, to the concern of the FBI and national security agencies.

Next year, the U.S. Congress will debate sun-setting key provisions of the Patriot Act allowing bulk data collection by the National Security Agency. We cherish our privacy but what if there is good reason to believe a terrorist group is planning another attack?

Cybertheft, cyberesponage and cybervandalism are going to get worse. The bad guys: terrorists, criminals and rogue states.

Governments and businesses need to act in tandem. Detecting, tracing and identifying sources requires constant vigilance. Deterrence depends on continuous innovation and collaboration between and amongst business and governments.

The standards of international law in time of war are laid out in the Geneva and Hague conventions addressing, for example, a ban on chemical and biological warfare. Groups like the Global Commission on Internet Governance are helping prepare the ground for international norms on cyberbehaviour .

Keeping cyberspace open and safe for commerce and personal use is vital but it won’t happen without constant effort.

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