With clashes expanding between Russia and Ukraine, questions are raised as to how far a battle like this can go. In the past warfare used to exclusively mean “boots on the ground”, but today there is a different type of battleground to be fought as well, the battle taking place every hour, of any day in cyber-space. Without a doubt, this battle has the potential of hurting people physically and economically if critical infrastructure, healthcare, telecommunication, banks, and other organizations are attacked.
While the battle on the ground might be over within days, the cyber-space battles will, unfortunately, continue years into the future.
Several HolistiCyber clients have asked us to draw on our nation-state grade background, to make sense of what could potentially occur if the current conflict expands to the West and the associated cyber-escalation which is where the next significant battles could take place.
As former nation-state cyberattackers we understand the playbooks, the techniques, and the targets, and have categorized these into three:
- Default status – long term silence mode (where most cyberattacks have been in the past and present)
- Computer network attacks (escalating, current status)
- Computer network warfare (full-on war zone in cyber-space)
Due to the sanctions on Russia and assistance to Ukraine, European and allied states have warned that utilities, financial institutions, businesses, and service providers may be targeted as part of Russian cyber retaliation. Banks across Europe have been warned against possible Russian-sponsored cyberattacks amid the escalating tension, while the UK has stated it will launch cyber retaliation on Russia if it targets UK computer networks, making an escalation towards full-on network warfare (phase 3) a possibility.
The graphic below highlights the objectives and presumable actions that cyber attackers might take at each phase.
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