Russian cyber crooks are using Ukraine as a "training ground" to hone the skills of state hackers before they are let loose on government systems and organisations in Western Europe and the US.
That's according to Kiev, Ukraine-based security analyst Oleksii Yasinsky, who claims that Russian hackers are honing their techniques on Ukrainian systems and infrastructure. What they learn from hacking Ukraine can be applied, in turn, to targets in wealthier countries.
Yasinsky, a forensic analyst working at cyber security firm ISSP, told SC UK: "It will be a quiet attack. Whoever controls cyber-space will control the world."
His claims come after the UK's National Cyber Security boss, Ciaran Martin, claimed that Russia had ordered attacks on UK power companies. He said the Kremlin is looking to disrupt western government and economies.
And just before Christmas, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee released a report providing insight into UK security services' understanding of Russia's approach to cyber warfare.
Although Ukraine remains the focus of Russian state cyber-hacking - given the continuing war waged by Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country - some of the attacks have had global consequences.
For example, while around 300 Ukrainian firms were affected by the NotPetya attack last year, perpetrated via the hacked update server of a Ukrainian accounting software vendor, it also affected some major multinationals, including Cadbury, Maersk, and Reckitt Benckiser. Parcels firm TNT Express was particularly affected.
Speaking to the Daily Express, John Hultquist, head of intelligence analysis at cyber security firm FireEye, backed up the claims made by Yasinsky.
He said Russian cyber criminals are constantly trying to aggravate western governments. "I don't think Russia is going to keep this bottled up in Ukraine.
"Historically, they have crossed every red line we thought they wouldn't. Are they going to walk away from cyber? No. They would attack."
Jamal Elmellas, chief technology officer of Auriga Consulting, told SC UK that these attacks will continue as Russia's cyber capabilities continue improving.
"We know Russia is up to no good in terms of its cyber-capability and I'm afraid it will only get worse," said Elmellas.
"It's now part of a conventional war tool chest where they will soften targets in preparation for a physical attack."
However, he added, competent security analysts can invariably tell which groups are behind different attacks: "They can be identified by the tools they utilise: there are signatures which give them away."
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