Russian security services have a laissez-faire attitude towards mounting cyber attacks abroad that the UK Intelligence and Security Committee has characterised as "We will give it a go and see what happens".
That's the claim of the latest annual report from the Committee, which also provides more information about the UK's offensive cyber weaponry.
The UK's Secret Intelligence Service, which works exclusively in foreign intelligence gathering, describes Russia as "formidable adversaries" when it comes to offensive cyber weaponry and activity. It cites the attack on French television station TV5Monde in April 2015 as just one example, which had been ‘false flagged' as an attack by Islamist extremists.
"It is possible that Russia is ostentatiously flexing its muscles towards the West under a deliberately thin blanket of deniability, or these may simply be providing a useful public cover for the Russian agencies' practices runs," the report warns.
Because of the ever-increasing threat of cyber attack, almost one-quarter of GCHQ's cyber security efforts are spent on protective cyber security, rather than the kind of offensive capabilities and activities exposed by Edward Snowden.
However, it has substantially increased its "offensive cyber capabilities", according to the report, although the precise figures (and percentage increases) have been redacted. It also develops what it describes as "offensive cyber capabilities which might never be used", but which exist as a deterrent - like cyber nuclear weapons.
The Committee is also quite abrupt about Russia's involvement in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 over Ukraine by Russian rebels in the east of the country. It claims that the evidence points "beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russian military supplied and subsequently recovered the missile launcher" used to shoot the flight down.
Russian then conducted a major disinformation campaign to try to suggest otherwise because the shooting down of the flight proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Russia is behind the war in Ukraine and, hence, engaged in destabilisation of neighbouring and other states.
"Russia conducts information warfare on a massive scale… An early example of this was a hugely intensive, multi-channel propaganda effort to persuade the world that Russia bore no responsibility for shooting down… MH-17," claims the report, which describes claims to the contrary made by Russia as "an outright falsehood".
Terrorists, though, don't have significant access to cyber-attack capabilities, according to GCHQ, which suggests that although there is a risk that cyber criminals could sell their expertise to them. GCHQ is "keeping a close eye on it", the organisation told the Committee.
The report also broached the subject of connected device security, suggesting that until either regulators or consumers demand that their Internet of Things devices are secure, then the problem will continue. "Many manufacturers are likely to sideline cyber security considerations, given their potential impact on time to market and, therefore, profits," claimed the report.
GCHQ also told the Committee that "people are producing very cheap devices where they don't want to spend time and money on security".
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