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Is Russian Cyber Warfare a Threat to Canadian Organizations?


The recent cyberattack on the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department, which occurred in the midst of increasing tensions between Russia and its western neighbours, calls for extreme caution. ‘Cyberspace warfare’ is the new buzzword making headlines in the ongoing armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. According to Microsoft President Brad Smith, with the evolution of sophisticated ransomware and malware, the frequency of Russian cyber warfare has increased, and disinformation has been cited as the leading cause of this well-orchestrated battle.

In the cyberattacks that have been recently reported, the HermeticWiper malware has gained significant traction. As early as January this year, ‘Gamareddon,’ a Russia-associated ShuckWorm group, was reported for cyber espionage on several organizations in Ukraine with phishing emails and unauthorized distribution of malware to devices.

In a complex timeline of events, a series of DDOS attacks were launched at Ukrainian banks and ministry websites on February 16. 2022 in an attempt to disarm web resources across Ukraine. As the anti-Ukraine malware variants continue to surface, ESET researchers claim another new malware was discovered on Feb 23, 2022. This was followed by finding the HermeticWiper malware that was essentially designed as a destructive payload that initiates system shutdown after wiping out files in various strategic drives and folders of the OS.  

Operating method of Russian cyber warfare 

Russia's method of modern warfare is to sabotage trust and breed discord and instability. Cyberattacks have been used to spread disinformation and degrade the country's morale. Russia's unrelenting goal is to disarm Ukraine digitally. With the United States and NATO likely to sanction the Russian President’s leadership and ostracize Russia from banking transfer systems, the consequences seem to be unforgiving. Therefore, the sanctions on Russia are bound to spiral into a series of aggressive cyberattacks on Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Cyberattacks from Russia are looming large over Canadian organizations

Several sources have alluded to the reality of Canadian businesses being on the brink of online attacks should Russia choose to retaliate against the government sanctions. Canadian organizations could pose as victims of bad actors trying to compromise critical infrastructure and government entities.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has issued a cyberthreat bulletin to critical infrastructure organizations shortly after the cyberattacks on Ukraine. Brian Hay, president of the Mackenzie Institute, quoted, “I’m not trying to get people in a panic mode, I’m just saying be prepared. Run your [incident response] plans now, don’t wait for the event to happen” on IT World Canada.

However, the Canadian Bankers Association has provided reassurance of Canada’s state-of-the-art security measures and cybersecurity practices. With highly-skilled IT security technology, banks have been in tight collaboration with the government, law enforcement, and other strategic partners to join their efforts to counter potential cyber warfare effectively.

How will Canada and the world retaliate? 

Undoubtedly, Russian cyber warfare has been one of the most destabilizing attacks since 9/11 – with Putin capitalizing on the NATO countries’ internal dynamics absorbed by a deep-seated political agenda. Being one of the founding members of NATO, Canada’s best defence is to leverage its close economic and diplomatic ties with the NATO countries to showcase a united front in the face of subsequent cyberattacks.

If Russia were to launch a large-scale attack on the infrastructure of NATO states they would be invoking the mutual defence clause - Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, where this cyber warfare will conclude with exacerbating consequences for Russia.

The results of a cyber warfare attack can be devastating to not only a country but a private business. Cybersecurity professionals at Packetlabs believe that stringent cybersecurity measures should be taken to mitigate the large-scale impact of cyberattacks in every aspect of our business.

Contact our team today to learn about strategies and solutions to proactively protect your business.