“Russia is best at military espionage and operations,” he said. “That’s what they have focused on for a long time. China is looking for crucial business information and technology. China’s main focus is stealing technology. These things quite separate. You use different tools on critical infrastructure than you use for military espionage and different tools again on stealing technology.”
Scott Borg (left) of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit
The Turkish navy’s ship Atak (nice peace-loving name) violated Greek territorial waters two days ago. In turn, a Greek Navy ship and an Air Force jet monitored the vessel during its illegal incursion. The Turkish vessel entered Greek territorial waters between Myconos and Naxos around 7 a.m., moving westward between Sifnos and Serifos, before turning north-east to sail between Kea and Kythnos. All told, according to Greek Defence Ministry sources, it was in Hellenic waters for just over 7 hours.
This sort of tension-heightening bollocks is par for the course with the armed forces of Recep Erdogan, a man whom even the Germans (based partly on what a jeu de mot of his surname means in their language) refer to as Mad Bloke. But such pissing contests may rapidly become a thing of the past – if emerging claims for cyber warfare are to be believed.
Vladimir Rasputin of the Russian Federation may wish to drawn a line in the sand about Syria – the Alawhite Assad government he is determined to protect from overthrow – but in that instance he is reacting adversely to a physical invasion undertaken by others. The reality is that – given the golden opportunity to have Cyprus as a massively Russian-dominated base and sphere of Mediterranean influence not long ago – Vlad turned it down. There is an important reason for that, and the reason is the cyber technology lead his RF now has. Among the senior levels of nomenklatura around Putin, for some time now there has been an arrogant belief in their ability to punch weight without piling in with twenty divisions and half the Russian navy.
The power of such technology – with near-minimal physical troop presence on the ground – to infrastructurally disable, and thus stamp on, South Ossetia made a profound impression on Western military experts at the time. Today, such abilities are beginning to concern the Americans vis-a-vis their energy-securing activities in that area encompassing the south-eastern toe of Europe and the north-eastern crown of Arabian Africa.
The Russians have defied smug Western prophesies of imminent defeat for Bashar Assad in Syria by supplying the embattled dictator with sophisticated weaponry, human technical help, and trained Iranian anti-insurgents. Just as significantly, however, America’s use of financial and cyber clout against the Ahmadinnajehad regime in Iran has led to Tehran scaling a rapid technological learning curve with Russian help. Like it or not, we are moving into another era of warfare……one where – in the Middle East at least – Russia’s ability to build destructive cyberweapons capable of seriously damaging other nations’ critical infrastructure is going to be the telling factor in any confrontation.
The brave new world Aldous Huxley couldn’t have predicted contains hackers who can wipe out security defences, and critically disrupt the full spectrum of an array of vital services, from the delivery of water and electric power to transportation.
“Ah,” some geopolitical strategists might argue, “but the US will always have the ultimate deterrent to fall back on”. Think again: America’s vulnerability to cyberwarfare is based to a very large extent on its position as the world’s most virtually networked nation State. Scott Borg (quoted at the head of this piece) opines:
“Policymakers may think an attack has been carried out by the Chinese, when it was actually the work of the Russians or a rising power in the cyber world, like Iran. That is why intelligence — getting insight into these operations — is more important in a crisis than cyberforensics, which can take longer and not be as certain. You can’t be ‘assured’ of attribution. The attack can be anonymous. It can be disguised as coming from another source….Iran is developing a serious capability. It’s exaggerating the present capabilities, but it’s working toward the future. What I’m really concerned about isn’t Russia or China, but attacks from Iran or terrorist groups working with state actors.”
That suggests we are leaving the crude nuclear age, and entering instead a much more dangerous period in which the misinterpretation of the source of an attack could trigger a disastrous nuclear response. In the short term, this may mean a number of completely outdated assumptions have been made in relation who really has the power to control access to energy in the middle east. Longer term, it means a new form of harassment to make physical ‘terrorism’ feel like a benign bank holiday picnic compared to an ability to cripple the economic output of an entire nation: especially one, like the UK, where dependence on virtual services is already a worry.