A new report by security firm FireEye suggests that the Kremlin has been sponsoring groups of hackers to attack targets in the West. In recent weeks, suspected Russian hackers have breached White House computer networks, as well as spying on computers used by the EU, NATO, the Ukrainian government and Western energy companies.

The recent attacks follow the introduction of EU and US sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and annexation of Crimea. However, they also follow on from the 2008 cyber-attack on Georgia during the war with Russia, which was co-ordinated with Russian military actions on the ground. And, in 2010, a massive cyber-attack against Estonia paralyzed the country’s digital infrastructure, disrupting government websites, banking services and media.

Are European governments taking cybersecurity seriously as a threat? We had a comment sent in from Davor, arguing that, because the internet is now so critical to our economies, it was time for governments to set up dedicated agencies to deal with threats in cyberspace.

Earlier this year, we interviewed Michael Daniel, Special Assistant and Cybersecurity Coordinator to U.S. President Barack Obama. What did he think of the idea of dedicated cybersecurity agencies being set up by governments?

We also spoke to Sigrid Johannisse, who was at the time an adviser to the cabinet of Neelie Kroes, then-European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda. How would she respond?

Want to know more about this issue? From 14 to 16 October 2014, our partner think-tank, the Security & Defence Agenda, held an online Security Jam focusing the brain power of almost 2,300 participants from 114 countries contributing to 2,800 posts on key security issues. The top 10 recommendations – to be published shortly – will form a roadmap for the EU’s and NATO’s new leadership, including recommendations on beefing up Europe’s cyber-defences.

If you need a bit more background on some of the issues related to cybersecurity and cyberwarfare, we’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (and you can click on the image for a larger version).

Are European countries prepared to fight a cyberwar with Russian hackers? What steps do EU governments need to take to better protect their digital infrastructure? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Justin

28 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Matej Dujić

    Why fight war with russian hackers if NSA openly snoops throught Europe after governemnts, companies and individuals, many times with support of local security agencies (Germany). We have by far greater danger within our borders and over atlantic…

    • avatar
      Mikko Karjalainen

      Matej replied his own question. Because many times, when US do spy us, it’s done with support of local security agencies. They have been asking our data, we know they want our data (not just our word for it).

      They have resources we Europeans don’t have. They can alert us, if they spot anything interesting. They are by far more benevolent compared to Russians. No doubt about that.

      The danger with Russia is that they are actually doing cyber terrorism. Not just espionage. Russians don’t have our approval at all. They do not cooperate and share with us.

      I think it’s time we shift from defense to offense – and reply in kind. We should launch full scale counter attacks on Russian networks if needed. Russians lack sophistication on this matter, they get constantly caught, just like Chinese. Their methods are crude and visible.

  2. avatar
    Carlos Wojciech Manrique Pérez

    If someone in the EUROPEAN UNION (part of russia is in Europe) can fight them those are the Eestis, but I agree with Matej Duji? even if I am not a fan of Russian foreign policy.

  3. avatar
    Antinazi Archimedes

    Wanna distract about the snooping by the NSA? I reported a British hacker to 11 police departments but hacking it’s OK when the Anglo-American empire is doing it.

  4. avatar

    How do we know they are Russian?, the whole point of fighting a internet war would be to use anonymity to attack your supposed enemy.
    We must invest in cyber security, we must be ready for offensive measures, but we must think this through, how far are we prepared to go?, ofcourse we would attack military targets or whoever the aggressor is, but society at large doesnt care if some computers on a army base are malfunctioning, they can be replaced, are we prepared to interfere in security systems of elevators, railway, banking etc.?, these are targets which have dual use purposes, and most likely civilians would be affected if not in danger, such broad actions could very likely constitute War crimes because of the negative effects on civilians.

    10/30/2018 Edvinas Kerza, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of National Defence, has responded to this comment.

    10/30/2018 Kate Charlet, Program Director of Technology and International Affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has responded to this comment.

  5. avatar
    Sylvain Duret

    We should fight NSA AND FSB ! USA are more powerfull, but Russia declared war to OUR democracy. Remember cyber-attack on Estonia in 2008 !

  6. avatar
    Jorge Qoqe

    Should we fight with Russia? Or should we star stopping of being a USA satelitte and think in Europe… cuz, if I’m not wrong, UE is 1/2 of Europe and Russia is 1/3… so…

  7. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    we have enought experience during the centuries… so please… let european warlords out of politics

  8. avatar
    Cristian Dinescu

    Russian hackers own the Western computerized infrastructures since 2005-6 … nobody knows when and how their root kits are working.

  9. avatar
    João Frazão

    Well, given the security environment kept the last weeks, I find that Brussels should prepare itself for turbulent times ahead. Be it by Moscow, be it by Washington, we are getting thrown into a war we don’t want to fight.
    At least, improve our defense mechanisms, as Russian military keeps on surrounding strategic key European points, e.g. french nuclear areas observed by drones, Russian boats and plains wandering around Norwegian sea, the Baltic and even the Portuguese seafare area. Must of all, we should also keep our eyes on actions taken by the US, given the fact that, more and more, american foreign policy has been tilted towards Russia/NATO warfare in Europe.
    So, let’s not be fools. European fortress now, as either the West, either the East have not been very kind lately.

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    The EU cyberwar fears with computer hacking lies far more deeply in your association with the paranoid Americans than it does with Russia. The USA wants war anywhere it can instigate it. Russia wants to avoid it.

    Learn from your experience and by what you see and know, rather than listen to the cover ups you are hearing from the Western front. For goodness sake realise, once and for all, the yanks are out to destroy Europe as it fears it will be overshadowed by its almighty force, which they have lost to fake money madness and total deception. Their population is illiterate and they are now trying to starve them to death. Yet still you cling to them like children allowing them to lead like the pied piper.

    Think that sounds crazy. Read this and tell me I have it wrong. Sending a ninety year old man to jail for feeding the homeless sounds to me like a third world dictator of the Zimbabwe ilk. Or, is this another fact you want to close your eyes to for fear of seeing the light.

    Although I hope if I reach 90 I too will have the mind and energy to be as caring as this man. What a guy. Now there is a man who should be receiving a Nobel peace prize. A genuine man of the heart.

  11. avatar

    Au contraire, Have a non combat attitude, pretend it never happened (ostrich way) be naive and friendly and increase the economic “ties” with Putin. What’s a “little hack” here and there compared with billions worth trade with Russia ? Keep opposing sanctions against Putin and start learning Cyrillic alphabet, because soon it might come handy.

  12. avatar
    Maia Alexandrova

    No more wars! Stop the warmongering! The only way forward is understanding Russia, recognising the democratic rights of its people and working in partnership. At the moment, EU rejects the rights of Russian people to have a say about how their country is run, it also rejects the same rights to the ethnic Russians in Ukraine. This is so undemocratic and totally wrong. EU should listen more and shout less. Tantrums will not help. Russia is saying many truths but EU is simply blocking its ears and behaving like a donkey on ice.

    • avatar

      Mr Putin needs to start recognising his own people’s democratic rights first, Maia, such as freedom of speech, fair competition, fair trial, the right to vote in elections etc. He has changed Russian law so that he can always be in power and have a guaranteed job for life. He is a modern type of dictator. He needs to give Dagestan and Chechnya an independence referendum each before he starts campaigning for other countries to do that. As for the truths that Russia is saying, I don’t see that they are any different to the truths that any other country/entity is saying…

    • avatar
      Maia Alexandrova

      Yvetta, what you are saying is not true. Mr Putin is not in power because of a supposed law that he changed to guarantee his job forever like a dictator but because Russian people voted for him. Also, according to their law he cannot have more than two consequtive terms as a president. Russian people are free, they have democracy and they are exercising it through their elections. I don’t know where you get that kind of information but it is completely false and does not correspond with reality. Putin does not have a job guaranteed for life and he recognises the democratic rights of his own people, and also of the Eastern Ukrainians whose rights are constantly denied by the EU and USA.

      Chechen terrorists who were abducting and killing innocent people are like the Islamic State terrorists – they wanted their independent islamic state Chechnya, based on Sharia laws. Are you saying that they are right? These were jihadist groups that had their own agenda and did not represent the majority of Chechen citizens. You are saying these people fight for democratic rights?

      There was a referendum held in Chechnya in 2003 and people voted to be part of Russia. There is a massive rebuilding going on in the republic at the moment. Even Chechen volunteers were fighting on the side of ethnic Russians in the Ukranian civil war this year. So things have changed. Chechnya has moved on. The war is in the past and there is no need to keep bringing it up.

      Russia is not Putin and its population is not only one man. It is wrong for the Western pubic to recognise only the will of Putin and ignore the wishes and interests of the millions of Russian people who he represents. How can this be democratic?

    • avatar

      Maia, I will leave your comment without any further response. People read the news (not Putin’s news) and can draw their own conclusions. The only thing I am sorry about is that they cannot see all of your comments in one place so that they can see the contradictions…the Chechen independence fighters are terrorists but the Russian invaders in Ukraine are not etc…because they have a different religion. No further comment.

    • avatar
      Maia Alexandrova

      There is no contradiction. The Russian “invasion” of Ukraine is only words, words, words… Even the supposed proofs for it are still nothing more than words. It is a mantra that serves to justify a needless war against Ukrainian civilians in the East and a new cold war against Russia. Just like the case with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that were never found. The country, however, was occupied and destroyed. For gullible people a lie repeated a million times becomes a truth, but not for me. I watch news channels from different countries as I want to see several points of view before reaching my own conclusion. I don’t trust that easily.

    • avatar

      Hi Maia, the articles below use public sources, quote people’s names, refer to an open letter and use information from the OSCE, a neutral organisation, very public as well at an international lever. I would really like to hear your comment on it. I have sent you a number of articles to read in the past but apart from defending Mr Putin vaguely you never comment on these articles. I would be very interested in hearing back from you. Thanks:

  13. avatar

    Bad news for Russia. John McCain is in charge to Control U.S. Senate’s Defense Policy.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Ironworker:

      McCain is bad news for every man, woman and child on the planet. Dig a hole for him.

  14. avatar

    Yes, Russia could attack in any way available to them. Although, the EU should be ready for a cyberwar with hackers of all nationalities.

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