Prospect of Russian cyber war may have been ‘overhyped’, says UK spy chief

Russia’s potential to unleash devastating cyber assaults on Ukraine’s army and civilian infrastructure could have been overblown, in accordance with a British spy chief, as Ukrainian defences show to be resilient in opposition to a few of the nation’s most subtle assaults.

“Perhaps the concept of a ‘cyber war’ was overhyped,” stated Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s indicators intelligence company GCHQ.

While fears of an internet warfare haven’t but materialised, dubbed by some analysts as a cyber winter, Fleming warned in a speech on the CyberUK convention on Tuesday that the risk from Russia remained actual.

Fleming’s feedback got here because the EU, UK and the US launched joint statements saying it was “almost certain” Russia was accountable for a pre-dawn cyber assault on a US-based satellite tv for pc web firm that included the Ukrainian army amongst its shoppers.

The assault, which commenced within the hours earlier than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, affected “tens of thousands” of modems and spilled outdoors of Ukraine, hitting clients in central Europe.

“This is clear and shocking evidence of a deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine which had significant consequences on ordinary people and businesses in Ukraine and across Europe,” UK overseas secretary Liz Truss stated.

Some analysts have warned that Russia could also be withholding its most subtle capabilities, which may take down energy vegetation or disrupt different crucial infrastructure, or focusing its capacities on espionage for now.

At the identical time, teams of hackers, both working straight with the Russian authorities or pledging fealty to President Vladimir Putin and his warfare in Ukraine, proceed to function within the darker corners of the web.

The British spy chief advised the convention in Wales that “there’s plenty of cyber about — we’ve seen what looks like some spillover of activity affecting other countries. And we’ve seen indications that Russia’s cyber operatives continue to look for targets in countries that oppose their actions.”

His speech comes as Nato and western allies proceed to brace themselves for on-line assaults from Russia, and which companies equivalent to GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre have pushed trade to stay vigilant in opposition to.

Cyber assaults in opposition to the UK’s private-sector crucial nationwide infrastructure have leapt by 72 per cent for the reason that warfare in Ukraine started, in accordance with a survey by cyber safety providers firm Bridewell.

Ukraine has acquired each public and categorized help from the US and UK to strengthen its cyber defences, after it spent almost a decade as a testing floor for Russian-government hacking teams.

So far, it seems this has helped Ukraine’s defence. Over the previous few months, Ukrainian authorities and private-sector cyber safety teams have thwarted lots of of extremely subtle assaults.

Fleming stated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had created a quickly evolving cyber battlefield that its western allies, together with Britain, had been nonetheless adapting to because the implications of a nascent cyber warfare and the speedy public launch of categorized data influenced the battle.

“This is modern warfare influenced and shaped by the democratisation of information — and the Ukrainians are excelling at it,” he stated.

“The [Ukrainians] have responded well, kept their systems up, built their systems up, with their emergency plans after being under pressure for years,” stated Rob Joyce, director of cyber safety on the US’s National Security Agency.

Fleming didn’t handle the function that Chinese government-affiliated hacking teams had had on western provide chains and mental property, saying solely that “we’re seeing China go further and faster, imbuing standards and technologies with their authoritarian, government-led values”.

He hinted that the UK’s nonetheless evolving nationwide offensive cyber technique, modelled partially on the US military’s Cyber Command, was displaying some preliminary success.

The UK had taken down about 2.7mn on-line scams up to now yr, Fleming stated, whereas the National Cyber Force had hunted criminals on-line, a uncommon reference to the work carried out by the brand new group.

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