A senior Russian security official told reporters this week that Western intelligence agencies are using cyber attacks to damage Russia and members of the anti-U.S. alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Federal Security Service first deputy director Gen. Sergei Smirnov said in Tashkent March 27 that the SCO Regional Antiterrorism Structure, known as RATS, is working on steps to counter the cyber attacks.
"We have to secure our society against the activities of Western security services, which would like to inflict some damage upon us in terms of cyber security," Smirnov told journalists following a RATS meeting. Stepped up cyber security was discussed by security officials at the meeting.
"There is evidence that this problem is topical not just for us in the Russian Federation," he said, according to Russia’s state-run news agency, Interfax. "All the countries in the SCO experience the same pressure."
"We know that Western security services set up special subdivisions within their agencies to study this issue add to create the requisite basis in the countries where they wish to engage in these activities," Smirnov said.
Meanwhile, NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, in Tallinn, Estonia, conducted an international exercise that was designed to train information technology specialists in defending against cyber attacks.
The exercise was held from March 26 to 28 at the NATO center in Estonia that was set up following a massive Russian-origin cyber attack in the former Soviet-ruled Baltic state in 2007. The electronic strike involved denial-of-service attacks, botnets, and spam, and is believed to have been a Russian state-sponsored cyber strike because of the sophistication of the methods used.
The NATO exercise was code-named Locked Shield 2012s and involved a "Red" team of cyber attackers who conducted strikes on nine "Blue" teams in Europe. The Blue forces include cyber specialists Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Finland, Italy, and Slovakia, a combined German-Austrian team, a Danish-Norwegian-Swedish team, and a NATO team, according to a statement from the Estonian center.
The blue teams included government and military officials along with private sector experts, according to the Tallinn ERR news service.
It is not known if the exercise involved hackers who posed as cyber attackers from Russia.
The Russian intelligence official’s comments followed publication by the U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive of a report that identified Russian intelligence agencies as among the most aggressive cyber spies operating around the world, along with China.
"We judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace," the report, made public in October, said.
The main reason for Russian cyber intelligence gathering is Moscow’s dependence on national resources, the need to diversify its economy, and the belief that the global economic system is tilted toward U.S. and other Western interests at Russia’s expense.
"Moscow’s highly capable intelligence services are using HUMINT [human intelligence], cyber, and other operations to collect economic information and technology to support Russia’s economic development and security," the report said.
Smirnov said the Arab Spring uprisings and revolutions along the African coast were exploited by western intelligence agencies he did not name.
The objective of the use of new technologies by the agencies is to maintain constant tension in societies and the overthrow of regimes in targeted countries.
All the SCO countries, including China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are facing the same cyber intelligence interference, Smirnov said.
"We decided to pay more attention to this problem next time. Before that, we have to analyze the situation in this matter in our countries, combine it all, and map out countermeasures of appropriate response to these activities of various security services," he said.
Smirnov also accused western intelligence agencies of using the blogosphere to interfere in the recent Russian presidential election and claimed to know the identities of the people involved, their goals, and the funding for their activities.
Smirnov said countermeasures against the cyber activities have not been developed but that such measures would not undermine what he termed "democratic norms" in Russia.
"Society, however, has to defend itself. If a foe uses dirty tricks, we have to somehow clear this space of these activities," Smirnov said.
The SCO council meeting sought to examine closer coordination of information security efforts, and also agreed to conduct "joint" activities aimed at preventing and suppressing the use—or threat of use—of computer networks for terrorist, separatist, or extremist purposes, the Interfax report said.