The Russian army is setting up a new division to focus on the fight against cyber-threats, according to Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Minister of Defence.
Among the main tasks of the new division will be monitoring and processing of information coming from the abroad, as well as the fight against cyber-threats and attacks. Foreign languages, and in particular English, will be required for all officers serving in these military units.
Earlier this year the Russian Ministry of Defence announced a "major search (great hunt)" for young programmers and IT experts, graduating from Russian civilian universities.
Sergei Shoigu comments: "We are starting a "major search" for programmers and IT experts. This need is dictated by the volume of IT and security technologies that are intended to be integrated in the national army over the next five years. We need a new generation of young people who will develop the science of warfare.”
The structure of such units has not yet been disclosed. One of the options is the establishment of a special Cyber Defence Centre in the General Staff, as well as similar centers in each military district and fleet of the country.
In addition to the establishment of new branches, there are plans to create a military cyber-network that will not have any connection to the Internet and will have multi-level protection, intended to prevent any attacks from outside the country.
As part of these plans, the Russian government plans to accelerate training of programmers, mathematicians, engineers, cryptographer, communicators interpreters and other staff, who will be asked to sign a contract for service in Russian army.
So far, special scientific squadrons have already been established in the Russian army, which focus on the defeating of cyber-attacks on the military infrastructure of the country, as well as websites of the Russian Parliament and President; there are an estimated 10,000 such attacks daily.
These new cyber-divisions will come under command of Colonel-General Pavel Popov, deputy minister of defence.
Bob Tarzey, director and analyst for IT consultancy Quocirca Group, told SCMagazineUK.com: “It's not unusual for a country to review its security against new threats and cyber-space is a new threat. If there is a threat, it's natural to put defences in place, so (the establishment of a cyber-division) is not a surprise.
“First you look at why cyber space is going to be important in future conflicts: The need to gather intelligence as with traditional espionage; the ability to disrupt communications to hamper conventional forces, and also the ability to deliver cyber-assaults on critical infrastructure – including the banking sector, as happened in Estonia. Look at other military powers, certainly the US, so this move is to be expected.”
While the level of investment in the establishment of these new divisions is not disclosed, some sources close to the Russian General Staff say that it may reach up to US$ 500 million (£314 million) in the initial stages.
The Russian parliament had approved probably the most militaristic federal budget in the history of modern Russia. Total expenditure for the army in 2015 is due to reach enormous RUB 3.3 trillion (£45 billion). This is compares to US-based IHS Inc. estimates for the entire Russian military budget of US$ 78 billion (£50 billion) in 2014, which it predicted would rise to US$ 98 billion (£62 billion) in 2016 – but this figure is still dwarfed by the US military spend of more than US$ 600 billion (£375 billion) in 2013.
Sarb Sembhi, consultancy services director with Storm Guidance and a leading member of the ISACA International security professionals organisations, adds that what is made public is not necessarily to be trusted, in terms of amounts of expenditure and capabilities, as the sector is rife with misinformation.
But nonetheless, Sembhi also sees the move as a logical one, but points out that Russia, while slowly keeping up with more advanced countries, is at a disadvantage given that the five eyes (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand) are able to share information. However, Russia can potentially call upon the expertise and experience of its criminal fraternity, telling SCMagazineUK.com: "It woud be no surprise if there are links (between government and organised crime), and it would be a great surprise if there were no links."
With additional reporting by Tony Morbin