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NATO, Latvia Claim More Russian Cyber-Attacks

Incidents of alleged electronic espionage provide more clues to Kremlin’s ability to employ hybrid warfare techniques against NATO countries.

6 October 2017

According to The Wall Street Journal, Moscow has been spying on NATO forces operating in Eastern Europe by compromising their smartphones.

 

The Journal reported that the cyberattacks were part of a Russian campaign targeting the 4,000 troops deployed to Poland and the Baltic states along the alliance’s European border with Russia.

 

Officials with NATO countries, cited in the report, believe that the campaign’s objective was to “gain operational information, gauge troop strength and intimidate soldiers.”

 

Some troops shared stories of being approached in public places by a man they believed was a Russian operative who possessed details of their personal lives. Others said they noticed unauthorized activity on their devices.

 

U.S. military personnel have apparently been targeted by hackers while on duty in Eastern Europe or during short tourist cruises to Russia, Stars and Stripes writes.

 

According to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux, commander of a NATO base in Poland, someone whose IP address pointed to Moscow tried to gain access to his smartphone and was able to track him.

 

“They were geolocating me, whoever it was,” he said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’ ”

 

Hackers also targeted at least six other soldiers under L’Heureux’s command.

 

 

The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

 

Discussing the issue at a press briefing on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said the allies are most certainly “going to be immediately looking into it” and “try to determine how it’s happening and cut it off.”

 

The Journal also reported Thursday that hackers “working for the Russian government” stole classified documents from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) when one of its contractors transferred files to his home computer in violation of the agency’s rules.

 

The documents, which were obtained in 2015, contained a detailed description of techniques employed by the NSA to break into foreign computers and protect its own servers from cyberattacks.

 

Sources believe that the hackers gained access to the contractor’s computer through the popular Russian Kaspersky Lab antivirus software. In September, the US federal government banned Kaspersky software from all government computers and ordered agencies to remove it.

 

Meanwhile, a temporary communications breakdown in Latvia, another NATO ally, has also been linked to Russian cyber forces.

 

According to The Washington Post, the failure occurred around the time of the Zapad 2017 war games last month, jointly organized by Russia and Belarus. Mobile phone service in the western Kurzeme region suffered a seven-hour outage on 30 August, and Latvia’s 112 emergency line went down for 16 hours on 14 September.

 

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said authorities are examining possible Russian involvement in the disruption but nothing yet has been proven.

 

 

  • A law drafted by the Russian Defense Ministry would prohibit professional soldiers and other military personnel from posting photos and videos to the internet as a security precaution. Russian soldiers have posted material indicating their involvement in conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, the BBC says.

 

  • The European Union and NATO have opened a joint center in Finland to counter hybrid threats. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described hybrid threats as a "mixture of military and non-military means of aggression, a combination of covert and overt operations and measures," Deutsche Welle reports.

 

  • According to CNN, a Facebook group called Heart of Texas that organized a protest against an Islamic center in Houston last year was operated by a Russian “troll factory.”

 

  • Heart of Texas’s Facebook account was suspended in late August, around the same time that Twitter suspended the feed of a companion group, @ItsTimeToSecede. The Heart of Texas page was “full of stilted, ungrammatical English,” CNN says.

Compiled by Peter Georgiev. Homepage image via Brian Klug/Flickr. 

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