Russian computer attacks have become more brazen and more destructive as the country grows increasingly at odds with the U.S. and European nations over military goals first in Ukraine and now Syria.
Along with reported computer breaches of a French TV network and the White House, a number of attacks now being attributed to Russian hackers and some not previously disclosed have riveted intelligence officials as relations with Russia have deteriorated. These targets include the Polish stock market, the U.S. House of Representatives, a German steel plant that suffered severe damage and The New York Times.
U.S. officials worry that any attempt by the Russian government to use vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure like global stock exchanges, power grids and airports as pressure points against the West could lead to a broader conflict, according to two people familiar with the debate inside government and who asked to not to be named when discussing intelligence matters. When NATO officials met last week, they voiced alarm about Russia’s rapid involvement in Syria, including the firing of cruise missiles, and vowed the biggest reinforcement of their collective defense since the end of the Cold War.
The Warsaw Stock Exchange is but one example of the heightened cyber-activity. Hackers who rifled the exchange last October, in a breach that set off alarms among Western intelligence agencies, proclaimed they were Muslim militants angry over Poland’s support for a bombing campaign against the Islamic State.
"It’s beginning," the group posted online in a file-sharing site called Pastebin, heavily used by the cyberunderground. "To be continued! Allahu Akbar!"
While stealing some data, the attackers also made dozens of client logins public, opening the exchange’s systems to additional chaos from cybercriminals of all stripes. It was sabotage by crowd-sourcing.
Except the infiltrators weren’t Islamic militants at all. Behind the smokescreen was a group of hackers with ties to the Russian government, according to three people familiar with the Polish investigation. The incident was viewed by Polish investigators as a stark warning to the country, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization intent on driving a strong alliance response to Russia’s moves in eastern Ukraine.
It hardly needs to be said but I'll remind people anyway that Putin is absolutely the product of the old Soviet intelligence services and Russia conducts clandestine ops with the best of them. The Russian hackers unleashed by the fall of the USSR in the 90's who became the new rich mobsters of the 00's are now happily taking Putin's coin in this decade, and they're doing a hell of a job shaking down governments from Warsaw to Washington.
Gotta hand it to the guy, he knows how to party. And if the music gets too loud, well, somebody might call the cops on him.