Ukraine War heightens cyberattack threat
With the Ukrainian War now entering into its fourth month, the devastation has not been limited to the conventional theaters of warfare, as Russian-based cyberattacks have had a negative effect on the Ukrainian economy and have also seen the allies of the embattled nation targeted.
In April, a joint advisory from the cybersecurity agencies in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom warned organizations around the world of impending cyberattacks from Russia. At that time, it was thought that attacks targeting Ukraine’s allies responsible for levying economic sanctions on Russia would materialize, and pockets of attacks have already been reported.
The advisory also stated that the dangers were not limited to those that may be posed by state-sponsored Advanced Persistent Threat Groups (APTs), as several non-government connected cyber gangs have “recently publicly pledged support for the Russian government,” and attacks would "occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia as well as material support provided by the United States and U.S. allies and partners."
These dangers are not lost on Canada’s Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, as he recently lobbied the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union) to establish a quick-reaction group that can share their individual expertise to defend against Russia-Based cyberattacks targeting Canadian IT infrastructure.
Since the war began, attacks like the ones against Ukrainian entities leveraging Hermetic Wiper Malware have wiped away data on computers configured for Microsoft Windows. These types of attacks would be a nuisance if they should expand beyond the immediate battlefield and target the West.
Champagne implored the meeting of G7 nations, "How can you do more together? What we proposed is a working group to increase our collective resilience."
Earlier in May, Canada’s Security Intelligence Service warned "Canada remains a target for malicious cyber-enabled espionage, sabotage, foreign influence, and terrorism-related activities which pose significant threats to Canada's national security, its interests and its economic stability,” and "cyber actors conduct malicious activities" for political, economic, military and security reasons.
In the aftermath, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, finally instituted a crucial ban of Chinese technology companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE from Canada's growing 5G networks in a move welcomed by the U.S. State Department. Canada is the final member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that includes the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, to impose a 5G ban against the Chinese entities.
Speaking at Canada’s Alouette Aluminum Plant last week, Trudeau said, "We took the time to carefully analyze the situation, look at all sorts of factors, to look very closely at what our allies and partners were doing around the world in regards to telecommunications safety."
This move is made even more critical by a new cooperative alliance struck between Putin and China just prior to the invaion of Ukraine.
This new Sino-Russo alliance poses a danger, and not just to Ukraine and Taiwan, but to the whole world, as both China and Russia have conducted about a decade’s worth of reconnaissance hacking.
Hackers from China were famously able to penetrate a U.S. Navy contractor working with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island, back in 2018. This hack occurred a few years after NBC News posted an NSA map that revealed “more than 600 corporate, private or government ‘Victims of Chinese Cyber Espionage’ attacked over a five-year period, with clusters in America’s industrial centers.” While the Russian-based SolarWinds hack affected tens of thousands of entities in both the private and public sectors globally.
No one can dispute the fact that China and Russia pose the greatest cyber threat to the West. America has seen this in the form of major supply chains attacks like the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods attacks of 2021. Now, in 2022, as we prepare for the next major wave of online attacks, it is relieving to see that the Canadian government seems to be finally getting it right on the key issues.
Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by numerous websites and he is regularly seen on National and International news programming.