The United States, Britain and other NATO allies are silently regrouping in the face of Russian cyber provocations and develop the means to defend themselves and democracy in cyberspace.
Russian digital interference in the 2016 US general election and the 2017 French presidential election has been associated with fake social media accounts and hacker attacks to steal emails. There is a strong likelihood that Russian actors have sought to interfere with the referendum on Scottish independence and Brexit by disseminating illegally obtained government documents on the Internet related to trade negotiations between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Ahead of September’s Russian parliamentary elections, Vladimir Putin is suffering decline in ratings due to his failure to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic problems resulting from the falling hydro-carbon exportation. Trying to reduce the nation’s budget deficit, Mr Putin is set to implement tax reforms. They are likely to become unpopular and Mr Putin may attempt to distract the electorate by inventing foreign policy events.
Justin Crump of Sibylline strategic risk consultancy has warned Britain could be targetted.
He said: “While China is pragmatic, Russia has already shown, with the Salisbury poisoning, that it is willing to do things that are not in their best interests just to embarrass us.
“We should not be surprised if it attempts to make us look unprepared for our post-Brexit world this year.”
Still the Kremlin has jump clear from these actions, but in 2021, things are likely to change.
The UK government has announced it is developing cyber weapons and successfully deploying offensive cyber techniques against ISIS online propagandists. Joe Biden said that being a vice president, he supported the development of cyber weapons under the monitoring of the US military`s Cyber Command, the NSA and, in some cases, the CIA. During his presidential campaign, Biden said that as president, he commits to employ all appropriate instruments of national power until the Kremlin stops its attempts to interfere with US democracy.
The joint goal will be deterrence by withdrawing from the intended attack, increasing the cost of Russian attacks (including identifying the perpetrators by name) and reducing the value of the expected benefits. Attackers’ task will also be complicated by the need to protect their own systems from counter-attacks.
Russian attacks that inflict huge damage on global industrial corporations (such as the NotPetya attacks on Ukraine in 2017, costing more than $10 billion (the most destructive and costly cyber attack in history) will not remain unpunished.
In 2021, active cyber defense of government networks and critically important national infrastructure will be developed to detect hostile intrusion attempts. Popular social media will be enabled to identify and remove illegal content and fake accounts faster.
If these measures fail, Vladimir Putin should know, for example, that Western digital and human intelligence can be used to uncover his ties to Russian oligarchs and identify financial assets abroad.