Cyberwarfare in Russia

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Cyberwarfare in Russia includes allegations of denial of service attacks, hacker attacks, dissemination of disinformation over the internet, participation of state-sponsored teams in political blogs, internet surveillance using SORM technology, and persecution of cyber-dissidents. According to investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov,[1] some of these activities are coordinated by the Russian signals intelligence, which is currently a part of the FSB but has been formerly a part of 16th KGB department, but others are directed by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Online presence[edit]

US journalist Pete Earley described his interviews with former senior Russian intelligence officer Sergei Tretyakov who defected in the United States in 2000. According to him,

Sergei would send an officer to a branch of New York Public Library where he could get access to the Internet without anyone knowing his identity. The officer would post the propaganda on various websites and send it in emails to US publications and broadcasters. Some propaganda would be disguised as educational or scientific reports. ... The studies had been generated at the Center by Russian experts. The reports would be 99% accurate but would always contain a kernel of disinformation that favored Russian foreign policy. ... "Our goal was to cause dissension and unrest inside the US and anti-American feelings abroad"[2]

Tretyakov did not specify the targeted web sites, but made clear they selected the sites which are most convenient for distributing the specific disinformation. During his work in New York in the end of the 1990s, one of the most frequent disinformation subjects was War in Chechnya.

According to a publication in Russian computer weekly Computerra, "just because it became known that anonymous editors are editing articles in English Wikipedia in the interests of UK and US intelligence and security services, it is also likely that Russian security services are involved in editing Russian Wikipedia, but this is not even interesting to prove it — because everyone knows that security bodies have a special place in structure of our [Russian] state"[3]


It has been claimed that Russian security services organized a number of denial of service attacks as a part of their Cyber-warfare against other countries,[4] most notably 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia and 2008 cyberattacks on Russia, South Ossetia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.[5] One of young Russian hackers said that he was paid by the Russian state security services to lead the hacker attacks on NATO computers. He was majoring computer sciences at the Department of the Defense of Information. His tuition was paid by the FSB.[6]

At the same time, speaking of 2007 cyberattacks, Estonia's defence minister Jaak Aaviksoo admitted he does not possess evidence of official Russian government involvement in cyberattacks.[7]

As to the 2008 cyberattacks on Georgia, an independent US-based research institute US Cyber Consequences Unit report stated the attacks had "little or no direct involvement from the Russian government or military". According to the institute's conclusions, some severalattacks were carried from PCs of multiple users, located in Russia, Ukraine and Latvia. These people were willingly participating in cyberwarfare, being Russia supporters during 2008 South Ossetia war. Some attacks also used botnets.[8][9]

According to Soldatov, a hacker attack on his web site Agentura was apparently directed by the secret services in the middle of Moscow theater hostage crisis.[1]

In March 2014, a Russian cyber weapon called Snake or “Ouroboros” is reported creating havoc on Ukrainian government systems.[10]

As reported on October 2014, Russian hackers exploited a bug in Microsoft Windows and other software to spy on computers used by NATO, the European Union, Ukraine and companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors, according to cyber intelligence firm ISight Partners.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

The alleged FSB activities on the Internet have been described in the short story "Anastasya" by Russian writer Grigory Svirsky, who was interested in the moral aspects of their work.[12] He wrote:

"It seems that offending, betraying, or even "murdering" people in the virtual space is easy. This is like killing an enemy in a video game: one does not see a disfigured body or the eyes of the person who is dying right in front of you. However, the human soul lives by its own basic laws that force it to pay the price for the virtual crime in his real life".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b State control over the internet, a talk show by Yevgenia Albats at the Echo of Moscow, January 22, 2006; interview with Andrei Soldatov and others
  2. ^ Pete Earley, "Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War", Penguin Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15439-3, pages 194-195
  3. ^ Is there only one truth? by Kivy Bird, Computerra, 26 November 2008
  4. ^ Cyberspace and the changing nature of warfare. Strategists must be aware that part of every political and military conflict will take place on the internet, says Kenneth Geers.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Andrew Meier, Black Earth. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003, ISBN 0-393-05178-1, pages 15-16.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^
  11. ^ [4] by Jim Finkle,, 14 October 2014
  12. ^ " Grigory Svirsky Anastasya. A story on-line (Full text in Russian)
  13. ^ (Russian) Eye for an eye