Presentation - Fiber Optics and Geopolitics: Russia’s Cyber War on Ukraine

2015 / 03 / 31

On March 31, 2015 the Georgain Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) hosted a presentation -  Fiber Optics and Geopolitics: Russia’s Cyber War on Ukraine.  Presentation was delivred by  Ambassador David J. Smith, Senior Fellow, GFSIS and Director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center (GSAC).

Before turning to recent events in Ukraine, Smith reviewed Russia’s 2008 attack on Georgia, the first ever combined kinetic and cyber war. In that instance, Russia hired and directed what he called “criminals and kids” to conduct cyber attacks. In Russia’s environment of systemic corruption, this practice has continued and been refined. Hiring criminals and kids leverages cutting edge technology, is cost-effective and is hard to attribute.  Smith then moved to the events that began in Ukraine in late 2013, continuing to today. Although several instances of cyber espionage were reported during the Ukrainian crisis, these, Smith explained, began several years earlier. Indeed, they were contemporary with Georbot, Russian cyber espionage malware that was discovered and reverse-engineered by CERT-Georgia. Smith also pointed out that the Snake or Uroburos espionage malware used against Ukraine was related to Agent. BTZ, which was used against American security systems. Even more troubling, some Russian groups, apparently linked to the Russian government, are seeking information on industrial control systems, the specialized computers that control just about every process of modern life. Essentially, Smith explained, malefactors in Russia are looking for the light switches in western countries, including Georgia and Ukraine.  The entire Ukraine experience, Smith concluded is fraught with warnings for the rest of us.

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