US cyber general accuses Moscow of callus conduct in digital war against Ukraine

Paul Nakasone, the army general in charge of United States Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, says Russia's military and intelligence cyber forces are a force to be reckoned with and has warned of ongoing disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing the West.

In a speech given to the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Nakasone emphasized that Russia had attempted to influence elections both in the US and Europe while gathering intelligence all over the world.

"Moscow has a high tolerance for risk and collateral damage in its cyber operations. This boldness is evident in Russia's indiscriminate cyberattack on Viasat satellite communications in Ukraine and across Europe in support of the invasion of Ukraine last year," he said.

Nakasone recalled the partnership with US European Command (USEUCOM) and Ukraine to harden the invaded country’s defenses against Russian aggression amid a "complex struggle in cyberspace."

"Since the crisis began, USCYBERCOM [US Cyber Command] has focused on defending secure communications at USEUCOM and Ukraine – ensuring the posture of our nation's nuclear command and control, and strengthening DoDIN [the Department of Defense Information Network] defense," he said.

Paul Nakasone
Nakasone. NSA/Shutterstock

Nakasone also noted that non-state cyber activities remained a significant threat. He emphasized that cybercrime is often organized and executed by criminals from Russia.

Moscow has long been accused of turning a blind eye to cybercriminals on Russian soil as long as they don't target local entities and focus instead on common enemies such as the US.

In 2021, Joe Biden met with Vladimir Putin, saying critical infrastructure should be off-limits for cyberattacks, which gave birth to the hope that a devastating attack such as that on Colonial Pipeline was not repeated.

However, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine over a year ago shattered all illusions that cooperation between the two superpowers was possible.

Nakasone also stressed that violent extremist groups posed a threat to national security.

"The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda, and associated terrorist groups maintain the intent to target Americans, although their capabilities have been eroded. Our Marine component, JFHQ-C [Joint Forces HQ Cyber], works with allies and partners to disrupt violent extremist group mobilization online and to support diplomatic efforts," he said.

Adversaries also continued to conduct cyber campaigns aimed at casting doubt on the legitimacy of the West.

"Authoritarian adversaries feel threatened by the freedoms that democratic states regard as commonplace, and thus they not only deny such freedoms to their own people, they campaign in cyberspace to impugn the legitimacy of democratic societies and intimidate opposition at home and abroad," he said.

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