Politics, Science-Technology, Americas, Asia - Pacific

Russia says working to fend off Western cyber-attacks

Western powers seen as victims in cyberspace as they write about attacks by Russia and China, says cyber security expert

Gozde Bayar   | 19.06.2019
Russia says working to fend off Western cyber-attacks

ANKARA

Russia is aware of Western plans to conduct cyber-attacks against Russia, said the country’s intelligence head on Tuesday.

"The security services are engaged in preventing attacks," the TASS news agency quoted Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin as telling reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of international security officials.

The statement followed a New York Times article claiming the U.S. has stepped up its intrusions on Russia’s electric power grid.

U.S. President Donald Trump, whose closeness to Russia has been noted by analysts, lost no time in branding the story “fake news.”

"Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country," Trump said on Twitter, again calling the news media the "enemy of the people."

Nezir Akyesilmen, a cybersecurity expert at Turkey’s Selcuk University, noted Trump’s attack on the act of reporting.

“He accuses the NYT not because the news itself is wrong but he describes disseminating the news as an act of treason,” said Akyesilmen, the author of “Cyber Politics and Cyber Security.”

Cybersecurity is part of many countries’ national security policies, Akyesilmen said, adding: “It is unusual to claim that Trump has no idea about cyber tools in foreign affairs.”

US advantage in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity analysts generally believe that Russia is powerful in offensive capability and the U.S. is strong in cyber defense, he added.

Speaking on cyber activities by the U.S., Russia, and China since the late 1980s, he said the U.S. has an advantage in terms of having up-to-date technology.

“Western powers are perceived as victims in cyberspace because they are the ones who write the literature. They focus a lot on the attacks by Russia and China,” he added.

But Western countries “conduct cyber-attacks in a smarter way,” he added.

Even allies attack each other

“Cyber conflicts are everywhere. Even allies try to use cyber tools against each other,” added Akyesilmen, citing the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) 2010-2013 incursion into Belgium telecommunications companies.

He said attacking other countries’ infrastructures, including power grids, is quite common and that it is possible that Venezuela’s power cuts in recent months may have been caused by U.S. attacks.

Due to its “anarchic nature and identity disassociation,” it is hard to control and monitor cyberspace, he said.

Venezuela’s government said the cuts were due to cyber-attacks and physical sabotage, while the opposition claimed the electrical system collapsed due to government neglect of the infrastructure.

Financial toll of cyber attacks

Cybersecurity Ventures, a cyber magazine, said that ransomware attacks, which infect computers and restrict their access to files, are expected this year to attack a computer every 14 seconds, and every 11 seconds by 2021.

It said cyber-crimes will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

It added that the annual financial damage from cyber-attacks is exponentially greater than natural disasters and that such attacks reap more profits than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined.

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