EU faces increased Russian cyber-threat

Russian hackers, including groups believed loosely connected to the Russian state, are claimed to be behind an upsurge in cyber-attacks on EU institutions.

EU faces increased Russian cyber-threat
EU faces increased Russian cyber-threat

There has been a significant increase in the number of cyber-attacks on the web-sites of EU governments, large Western industrial corporations and public associations which are believed to originate in Western Russia according to a recent report by FireEye Inc.

Last year major EU targets of Russian hackers reported by Fire Eye included the German Bundestag, the Polish government the French TV5MONDE channel as well as web-sites of other EU state agencies and associations.

The also confirmed by statements of some leading EU and Russian experts in the field of IT security.

Andrew Soldatov, a well-known Russian cyber-security analyst told SCmagazineUK.com  that since the beginning of 2014 the number of cyber-attacks from Russia has significantly increased, while the methods and tools used by Russian hackers have changed and became more sophisticated. This, according to Soldatov, has made them very dangerous, due to their ability to destabilise the operations of key state bodies and agencies and to steal secret information and restricted data.

Andrew Soldatov comments:  “In the past the majority of attacks conducted by Russian hackers were relatively simple and mostly involved DDoS-attacks, ... in recent years these attacks have become better prepared technically, while their targets have also changed.”

According to analysts at the Polish Ministry of Defence, these changes are explained by an increase in funding at some leading Russian hacker groups and their possible affilation with unnamed Russian state bodies and agencies.

A source in the Ukranian State Security Service told SC that prior to the middle of 2014 the activitites of hackers in Russia had been controlled byvarious Russian youth movements (some of which were affilated with the national government),  which sometimes ordered the attacks by professional hackers. These activities were mostly focused on attacks on Western banks and information theft. At the same time in recent months particular attention has been paid to propaganda in social networks and trolling.

The attacks have also been conducted via popular social networks, through the infection of users' computers by viruses. Among social networks, the biggest concerns relate to VKontakte, the largest Russian social network in Europe, which is especially popular among Russian-speaking users, particularly in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other post-Soviet states.

Recently there have also been attempts by Russian hackers to get illegal access to Facebook and other Western social networks.