'Research squadrons' to raise IT capability of Russian army

New cyber-security arms race between Russia and US, as Russia responds to US and western plans for increased military cyber-capabilities.

Criminals get hold of 'Russian state malware'
Criminals get hold of 'Russian state malware'

The Russian government is establishing special 'research squadrons' in the Russian army that will focus on the fight against cyber-threats, according to Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Defence Minister.

Shoigu says that these will be scientific units comprised of some of the most talented young scientists, many of whom received scientific degrees at leading Russian universities including St Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Rostov and the Far East, before being drafted into the armed forces. Each scientific squadron will be comprised of 60 to 70 soldiers, each of which will conduct its own scientific work. Each scientific squadron will be attached to a particular combat arm of the Russian military, eg, Army, Air Force, Navy, aerospace defence and other specialist units.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the establishment of such squadrons will meet an acute need, as, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of cyber-attacks on the Russian military infrastructure and strategically important installations (such as nuclear power plants, hospitals etc).

Shoigu has stated that, to date, eight research squadrons have already been established and attached to different military branches and scientific institutions and, according to state plans, four more will be established by the end of 2016.

According to a spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defence, the establishment of research squadrons in the Russian army is a response to the recently announced plans by the US Secretary of Defence, Ashton Carter, to establish a special digital service for the US militarywhich will focus on the development of new technologies in the field of IT security.

Earlier this year a significant increase in spending on national cyber-security was also announced by the UK government. According to recent statements by the UK Finance Minister George Osborne, there is a high threat of massive cyber-attacks on Western countries by terrorists from the 'Islamic State.'

According to Sergei Shoigu, one of the new squadrons will focus on the development of software for the recently established National Center of Defence Management, which, according to Shoigu,  exceeds the US Pentagon by three to four times, in terms of  computing power, and by almost 20 times, in terms of the volumes of stored information.

He added that the competition for places in the research squadrons is currently estimated at 15 to 18 people per place and continues to grow. To date,  soldiers in the newly established squadrons are claimed to have developed about 130 innovations, 45 software programs and published more than 350 scientific articles, primarily in the field of IT security.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, funding for the research squadrons will come from Russian national military budget, which is set at RUB 3.5 trillion (US $50 billion/£33 billion) for the current year, which is a record figure in the history of Russia and its predecessor, the USSR.