Russia unexpectedly poor at cyberwar, say European military heads

Russia is "not ready to wage coordinated cyber and kinetic war", said Lithuania's head of cybersecurity. PHOTO: REUTERS

LILLE, FRANCE (AFP) - Several European heads of military cyber defence forces agreed on Wednesday (June 8) that Russia has been far less effective than expected in employing digital combat capabilities in their offensive against Ukraine.

"Among cybersecurity experts we were pretty sure that there would be a cyber Pearl Harbour based on past experience of Russian behaviour and capabilities," said General Karol Molenda, head of Poland's National Cyber Security Centre.

But Ukraine was prepared and "withstood attacks from Russia", Gen Molenda told a meeting of the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC) held in the northern France city of Lille.

This showed, he added, that you can prepare for cyber conflict against Russia, which he said was "good at offensive capabilities but not so good at defence".

He cited multiple cyber attacks which had hit the country, the work mainly of independent hackers.

Lithuania's head of cybersecurity, Colonel Romualdas Petkevicius said that Russia is "not ready to wage coordinated cyber and kinetic war".

There are cyber activities everywhere in Ukraine, "thousands of them," he told AFP. "But I don't think they are very well planned".

General Didier Tisseyre, head of France's cyber defence force, made a similar observation about a disconnect between computer attacks and Russia's military offensive on the ground.

"Maybe they didn't manage to organise it the way they wanted to", and their capacities "are not as strong as we imagine", he said.

But the analysis of the conflict is complicated by the fact that independent hacker groups have entered the battle, while companies such as Microsoft and Starlink have also come to Ukraine's aid, he pointed out.

The current conflict in cyberspace "is like a rugby world cup "where all the teams are on the field without their distinctive jerseys. The public is on the field too, and you have to prevent tries from being scored".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.