Will Cold War redux be fought on cyber battlefield?

Tensions are high between Russia and the West after the poisoning of former UK spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England using the Soviet-manufactured, military-grade nerve agent known as Novichok.

In the London Parliament on March 12, Conservative MP John Whittingdale described the attack as “hybrid warfare with Russia that includes disinformation, political interference, cyber-attacks and now very possibly this act of attempted murder….” PM Theresa May threatened “extensive measures” against Russia for failure to explain the events, and she expelled 23 Russian diplomats. The Conservative MP, Mark Harper, asked May if the PM would deploy Britain’s “considerable range of offensive cyber-capabilities” against Russia, to which the PM responded, “We, of course, will look at responses across a number of areas of activity….”

A government induced cyberattack from the UK could lead to severe consequences for Russia’s digital propaganda machine, but given that Russian cyber-attacks took down Ukrainian power grids, gained control over several US energy companies, and launched NotPetya globally, repercussions could be widespread.

On Thursday, the US FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an alert saying that the attacks on US energy companies and interference in the US Presidential election were “a multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors….” A joint statement by the US, UK, France and Germany called the Salisbury incident a “violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention” and “an assault on UK sovereignty”. Stay tuned.

Read more: Hansard Salisbury Incident / Joint Statement / US-CERT

Image: Pixabay / CC0-1.0 + Twitter – Vladimir Putin on Theresa May’s shoulder

This story is taken from the 16 March 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.