Russia’s Cyber Campaigns
By Izatt Folkman
Russia has a long history of cyber warfare. InvestigateRussia.org lists several of the important cyberattacks fueled by Russia during the 21st century. The Committee to Investigate Russia is a non-profit organization that worked during the Robert Mueller investigation as an aggregation of news pertaining to Russia’s affiliation with the US, and while no longer active still exists as culmination of information having to do with post-Soviet Russia.
One of the longest cyberattack campaigns Russia has been investigated for is Operation Pawn Storm. The campaign has been ongoing since at least 2004 through at least 2016. Specific attack methods set Operation Pawn Storm apart from other cyberattacks. These tactics include: malware-laden phishing emails, creating fake Outlook login pages, and creating iOS malware for spying purposes (Trend Micro). Operation Pawn Storm has targeted several organizations, including NATO, the U.S. Government and Military, United States allies, and Ukraine. They have compromised Polish government websites, famous YouTube bloggers, and use iOS apps for espionage.
Last March, Russia was accused of creating cyberattacks targeting nuclear power plants and electrical systems. Reports of these attacks started in 2015 and continued through at least 2017 (New York Times). The Department of Homeland Security reported that Russian hackers managed to find controls to “critical control systems at power plants that were not identified. The hackers never went so far as to sabotage or shut down the computer systems that guide the operations of the plants” (New York Times). These attacks were linked to two different Russian intelligence agencies involved in election interference. Espionage and hacking by these groups surged three months after Donald Trump took office as the President. The attacks began as espionage and escalated to possible sabotage. Luckily, it appears that although hackers have access to power plants, this access is most likely not going to be an issue in the future.
Perlroth, Nicole, and David E. Sanger. “Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says.” The New York Times. March 15, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/us/politics/russia-cyberattacks.html.
Trend Micro Inc. “Operation Pawn Storm: Fast Facts and the Latest Developments.” Security News – Trend Micro USA. January 16, 2016. Accessed July 11, 2019. https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/cyber-attacks/operation-pawn-storm-fast-facts.