Russian Cybercriminals Change Gears: Spying on European Elections

It would seem that the U.S. 2016 Presidential election wasn't Russia's only pet project. According to USA Today, Russia has launched cyberattacks on Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, France and Germany for at least a decade. "Russian hackers appeared aimed at influencing election results, sowing discord and undermining faith in public institutions that included government agencies, the media and elected officials."

At the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin made known that he felt threatened by the United States' work to spread democracy. What does an animal do when it feels trapped in a corner? It bites. Believing the Kremlin was coming under attack by democratic forces, in 2007 Putin gave clearance to conduct cyber warfare on Russia's enemies, including the United States and its allies.

European Democracy at Stake
With the Trump administration appearing to look the other way in spite of Russia's threatening cyber actions, it's unclear what measures will be taken to stop Vladimir Putin and his regime from disrupting other elections. The United Kingdom's defense secretary, Michael Fallon, has said that the Russian government is "weaponising [sic.] misinformation\" to confuse and alter the course of the West. Fallon went further to say that the Russian government was using "cyber weaponry to disrupt critical infrastructure and disable democratic machinery. Russia is clearly testing Nato and the West. It is seeking to expand its sphere of influence, destabilize countries and weaken the alliance."

With isolationist rhetoric being the main thoroughfare at populist rallies (including at the time of then-Republican nominee Trump's stumping and Nigel Farage's campaign for Brexit) it's disturbing that Russia's interference in the U.S.' election and beyond have not gained more attention by the public. Instead, the fake news Russian foreign actors are publishing on a daily basis have taken center stage, with many believing they are reading the truth.

To combat Russia's efforts, Western democracies are working to strengthen their cybersecurity. In November, the United Kingdom laid out their national cybersecurity strategy to combat Russia's hacks and fake news. Germany and other western nations are following suit, especially given Russia's win in the U.S. Presidential election.

What is the U.S. Doing?
Though the Trump administration has said cybersecurity is a top priority, the constant mishandling of information and outright lies said by the sitting administration has every sane American working to implement their own cybersecurity policy. A cybersecurity policy should include routine network checks, data back-ups and cyber insurance. If a cybercriminal should be able to get into your network, a cyber policy will cover the damages.

The question is, what kind of cybersecurity practices does the United States have under Donald Trump? Having denied Russia's influence on his election win for months, only to agree with the intelligence experts and later backtrack in his first press conference as President-elect, Donald Trump has not given Americans clear and concise word on how he and his administration plan to move forward in cybersecurity. If Mike Flynn's talks with the Russian ambassador are any indication, Americans ought to start tightening their cybersecurity now.

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