The use of deniable actors is hardly unique to Russia, but the state’s complicity and even outright involvement in organized crime is. OODA’s reports “The Russian Threat” suggests that “Russia should be considered a kleptocracy, where the rule of law exists as long as it supports the objectives of the state and the ruling oligarchs.” The report further notes that because the law is subject to the state’s whims, Putin is able “to act decisively to defend Russian interests and to pursue opportunities he views as enhancing Russian prestige and power abroad.” The coopting of cyber criminals represents just such an example of kleptocracy enabling the Russian state to seize controversial opportunities that would be waylaid by opposition from “checks and balances” in true democracies.
Unmasking Maskirovka: Russia’s Cyber Influence Operations examines Russian ‘Information Operations’ (InfoOps) as a tool of strategic influence. This exploration is timely and relevant given the Russian assault on the American electoral process in the 2016 Presidential election—especially since the long-range implications are still being assessed.
With the 2018 midterm elections completed an appropriate level of focus is required to think through “What’s next?” from and adversarial perspective. While is highly unlikely that Russia sits this one out, it is as equally unlikely that the next series of influence operations will look like the previous ones in 2016. How will Russian strategies of “reflexive control” and “hybrid warfare” impact the United States and other going forward?
Proactively thinking about adversary innovation needs to be a critical part of our cyber defense strategy, not just within the U.S. government but in private industry as well. Here is our informal take on some of the threat trends we will be confronting over the next two years.
For many months now Russia has engaged its domestic and international audiences in a massive information campaign. The goal of the campaign is to persuade and influence local and foreign populations that Russian territorial claims in Ukraine are based on legitimate responses to world events. This media offensive has used