Russia’s cyberwar on Ukraine largely failed and Moscow is increasingly targeting Kyiv’s European allies, according to US and French analysts.
French defense firm Thales said in a report on Wednesday that Russia was hitting Poland, the Nordic and Baltic countries with an arsenal of cyber weapons aiming to sow divisions and promote anti-war messages.
Microsoft said in a threat assessment earlier this month that Russian actors had launched attacks in at least 17 European countries in the first six weeks of this year.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine began on February 24 last year but the military giant has not been able to score a decisive victory on the battlefield over its much smaller neighbor.
Thales and Microsoft said Russia’s invasion was accompanied by widespread cyberattacks in Ukraine, but they were repelled.
“Cyberwarfare didn’t deliver the game-changing blow that Russia hoped for,” Thales technical director for cyber defense, Ivan Fontarensky, told AFP, highlighting the resilience of Ukraine’s defenses.
Both firms said Russia shifted focus to other European countries late last year.
“In the third quarter of 2022, Europe was dragged into a high-intensity hybrid cyberwar at a turning point in the conflict,” said Pierre-Yves Jolivet, Thales vice president for cyber solutions.
Jolivet said countries outside Ukraine were suffering a “massive wave” of DDoS attacks, when a server is flooded with requests that crash the network.
These attacks were increasingly carried out by “hacktivist” groups aligned with the Kremlin rather than official groups, and they aimed to sow chaos rather than destroy infrastructure, Thales said.
Poland, Latvia, and Sweden were among the most affected countries, the Thales report said.
Microsoft said in its assessment that attacks this year in Europe were largely aimed at government entities for espionage purposes.
Highlighting the global reach of Russian actors, the firm said 21 percent of attacks outside Ukraine since the start of the war had hit the United States.
While attacks outside Ukraine were often low-level harassment, Microsoft said Russia may well choose more damaging cyber tools in the future.
“Should Russia suffer more setbacks on the battlefield, Russian actors may seek to expand their targeting of military and humanitarian supply chains by pursuing destructive attacks beyond Ukraine and Poland,” said Microsoft.