What is on the horizon in Russia's war plans? According to Neal Higgins, deputy national cyber director for national cybersecurity, there could be more cyber warfare. The cybersecurity professional spoke to DefenseNews on June 14 at an event hosted by Defense One and had some pretty revealing comments.
A dangerous spill-over effect
“A slow military progress continues to thwart the Russians on the ground in Ukraine. They may increasingly consider cyber options to divide our allies and to dilute international resolve against its action,” Higgins said. “We have not seen that yet, but we’re not out of the woods. We have to keep our shields up, we can’t let our guard down.”
Higgins added that Russia's cyber attacks often spill over into unchartered territory.
“The Russians have a history of using poorly controlled, damaging attacks that can spread beyond their intended targets,” Higgins said. “That’s what happened, most famously, in 2017 with the NotPetya attack, which was focused on Ukraine but caused billions of dollars of damage around the world.”
And things have gotten worse over the last two years said the executive.
“The last 24 months have seen an unprecedented surge in high-profile cyber events, from SolarWinds beginning in late 2020, through Kaseya, Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and now the use of cyberattacks in connection with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Higgins added.
In order to protect itself, the US government has taken several measures including reaching out to private security firms. Furthermore, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a so-called Shields Up notice about potential Russian belligerence.
“One of the key activities that you’ve seen since the threat of the Russian invasion of Ukraine really began to metastasize in late 2021 was greater collaboration between the government and the private sector, including through the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, the JCDC, run by CISA,” Higgins concluded. "But a lot of work has occurred less visibly to try to make sure that we are as well defended as we can be.”
The never-ending war
And it's good that the nation is seeking to protect itself as the war in Ukraine does not seem to be ending any time soon. On Sunday, the head of NATO said that it could continue for years to come, according to a report by Reuters.
"We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg was quoted as saying. "Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices."
The question then becomes: how long can western nations support Ukraine? Countries are already suffering from price hikes and energy shortages due to the war. There may come a time when their survival and vitality may be put on the line. What will they choose to do if that happens?