Threat Intelligence, Network Security

Russia’s increasing cyber-capabilities underestimated?

Russia is continuing to increase its cyber-capabilities through the establishment of a cyber-army within the national Ministry of Defence structures, as well as developing local technical and defence enterprises, according to a recent report by analysts at Meduza, a Riga-based online newspaper.

Meduza's investigation reports how implementation of these plans is carried out under the control of Russian special services, and in particular the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Russian Military Intelligence (GRU), which in recent years have become among the largest buyers of equipment and technologies, designed for conducting cyber-attacks.

In response to publication of the report the Russian military command is largely supporting the report's conclusions, with Nikolay Artemyev, a spokesman of the press-service of the Russian General Staff, telling that in recent years the demand for highly-skilled cyber-security specialists in the Russian army has significantly increased, which has resulted in the establishment of research squadrons in different regions of the country, as well as its military units.

However, he adds that these research squadrons are not involved in the design of any spying devices or cyber-technologies for illegal hacking and attacks on computer systems. Nonetheless, the Russian Ministry of Defence also confirms that some of the developments coming out of these research squadrons are currently classified.

Leading Russian analysts in the field of cyber-defence also observe that to date, in their view Western nations have paid insufficient attention to the rising cyber-capabilities of Russia.

Ilya Medvedev, a senior analyst of Kiberbezopasnost, a Russian enterprise specialising in the design of cyber-security solutions, told SC magazine that the extent of the latest data leaks in the West, attributed to Russian hackers, were a huge surprise for Western governments and special services who had under-estimated their abilities.

Medvedev adds that the establishment of such cyber-army in the Russian Ministry of Defence actually started five to six years ago, hence its capability is now very high, with a significant part of the Russian annual military budget, valued at some US$ 50 billion (£40 billion), allocated to meeting the requirements of the newly established cyber-military structures.

Underestimating of Russia's cyber-capability by the West is an assessment shared by Ilya Sachkov, general director of IB-Group, another leading Russian IT security company.

In statements made during the recent St Petersburg Economic Forum, Sachkov said that Western countries has seriously underestimated Russian cyber-security technology. He also says that Russian cyber-experts have made great strides in developing cyber-security solutions, including in areas such as internet security payments.

Ilya Sachkov comments: “Snobbery currently remains one of the major problems of the Western world. To date, the attitude toward Russian cyber-technologies in Western countries has been very strange and biased. This is despite the fact that many present US cyber-solutions would be uncompetitive in Russia. Russia has a large volume of e-commerce and one of the world's best on-line banking systems, which is well-ahead of the EU and the US in terms of convenience and security.”

Whether the West under-estimates Russian cyber-security capabilities, or simply does not trust the independence of Russian-origin technology, is another issue.

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