Microsoft warns that Russian cyberattacks are becoming “more aggressive”

“Sophisticated” Russian cyberattacks are “more aggressive” and may become more challenging to prevent. This is reported by Sky News, citing Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith.

Brad Smith testified to the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security today, two months after a scathing report on Microsoft’s cybersecurity failings (some more details on this report here below).

Threat from Russia’s SVR – Microsoft’s Smith

Smith warned the US politicians that Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) “continues to be one of the best supplied and most sophisticated cyber agencies worldwide.”

According to Smith, over the past year, Microsoft has seen that SVR has become “more aggressive.” He explained that now, when experts detect Russia’s activities in the Internet environment, it does not withdraw but rather doubles its attacks.

Doubling the cyber attacks leads to the equivalent of “hand-to-hand combat” in cyberspace, Brad Smith stated.

He warned of a “more direct relationship between nation-state activity and cybercrime, especially in Russia and North Korea.”. 

Smith said that it is necessary to prepare for the possibility that US opponents will “work more closely together in cyberspace.”

“It’s one thing to engage in cyber combat with four separate nation-state adversaries [Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran], but quite another scenario if two or all four of these countries work in tandem,” he said.

Microsoft reports on Russian cyber attacks on European nations

Earlier, Microsoft reported that Russia has been increasing malign disinformation campaigns against France, French President Emmanuel Macron, the International Olympic Committee, and the Olympic Games in Paris.

These Russian disinformation operations have two principal goals: 1) denigrate the reputation of the IOC; and 2) create the expectation of violence breaking out in Paris at the Olympics, Microsoft wrote.

In April, the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) identified at least 70 Russian actors who are spreading disinformation about Ukraine using traditional and social media, as well as covert and overt efforts on the eve of US elections.

China aims to exploit societal polarization and undermine trust in US democratic systems, while Russian actions aim to erode US support for Ukraine. Furthermore, the success of sophisticated AI deepfake movies in manipulating voters remains unproven, whereas simpler AI-enhanced and AI-audio fake content is likely to be more effective.

These observations and analyses are presented in the second Microsoft Threat Intelligence Election Report, which was released on April 17.

Series of Russian cyberattacks targeting Europe

In the UK, a severe ransomware attack attributed to a Russian cybercrime group has struck major hospitals in London, causing significant disruptions and highlighting vulnerabilities in healthcare cybersecurity, the Independent reported. This incident was described by British officials as a “very, very serious” crisis.

Recent insights from Mandiant, a subsidiary of Google specializing in cyber threat analysis, reveal that a Russian group of hackers called APT44 (also dubbed Sandworm) has played a pivotal role in orchestrating disruptive and destructive cyber operations against Ukraine over the past decade, executing the Kremlin’s covert agenda. 

On May 8, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digitization, Krzysztof Gawkowski said that Russia was attacking Poland in cyberspace to obtain data on military support for Ukraine. Last week he also announced the repulsion of several coordinated attacks on critical infrastructure. According to the Polish minister, Poland is no longer in a cold war but in a “warm” cyberwar with Russia.

On May 3, the EU condemned Russia’s malicious cyber campaign against Germany and the Czech Republic. NATO also expressed its solidarity with Germany and the Czech Republic in relation to the cyberattacks carried out by a Russian hacker group.

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