Defense Department

Kyrgyzstan gets cyber-arm twist from Russia over US base

The Kyrgyz parliament is set to vote on a bill that will close the US airbase in that country. Russia has been putting deep financial pressure on Kyrgyzstan to close the base, offering a significant financial carrot to do so in the way of loans and aid. But there’s also been a stick involved: a cyber-attack similar to those on Estonia and Georgia.

Russia has been extremely agressive in the use of cyberwarfare to intimidate and influence the policies of former Soviet republics. While earlier cyberattacks were plausibly deniable by Russia as the activity of “hacktivists”, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace said at the recent Net Centric Warfare conference that Russia had “shown a little ankle” in the attacks on Georgia, revealing the government’s role in mustering the cyber-fifth-column that denied the Georgian government the use of its Internet infrastructure for much of the Russian invasion last August.

So, as Russia continues to try to re-establish its influence over former Soviet republics and takes a more adversarial position against the US and its allies in the region, it is becoming more and more agressive in cyberspace. Some blamed the malware attack on DOD networks last November on Russia, and an email worm attack on the RAF recently exfiltrated emails to a Russian Internet Protocol address.

All of this is undoubtedly on the table as President Obama conducts his cyber-security review. And there’s plenty to worry about, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out yesterday in its look at the recent hacks at the National Nuclear Security Administration(tip of the twitter tail to Jeffrey Carr).

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