As the world marks one year since Russia’s invasion of and subsequent war with Ukraine, cybersecurity experts have turned their attention to the impact this conflict has had on the world of cybercrime.
Russia has long been suspected of using cyber attacks on targets across the west, with accusations of state-sponsored hacks targeting companies and national services within the UK and overseas.
Such attacks appeared to intensify just before war broke out in February 2022, with DDoS attacks and misinformation campaigns being reported during this time by European and American security agencies.
Figures from Google suggest that between 2020 and 2022, cyber operations from Russia increased 250%. For those aimed at NATO countries, the increase was nearer 300%. In real terms, Google said it disrupted nearly 2,000 instances of Russian activity on its platforms during 2022 alone.
Within Ukraine, attacks in just the first four months of 2022 were reported to outnumber those from the previous eight years combined. However, Ukraine has managed to parry a great many of these, thanks to continued improvements to its cyber defence capabilities. In fact, it has reported no major cyber incidents during the war, in spite of relentless attacks.
These successes shouldn’t engender complacency, however, with security agencies expecting Russia to continue trying to undermine not only the Ukrainian government but also destroy the widespread international support for its plight.
That said, trouble could be coming for Russia in the form of a ‘brain drain’ of cyber experts. Many have either been drafted into the military or moved away to avoid conscription, whilst some may well have switched allegiance. Surely enough, intelligence company Recorded Future claims that activity on Russian-language cybercrime forums has decreased since the start of the invasion.
Whilst good news for the west, this does mean groups could become fractured and individuals once part of a collective now work as lone wolves or solo hacktivists. These could well come for large or small businesses in the UK and across the west – making effective cyber security measures even more of a business essential than ever before.