The Past, Present, and Future of Russia's Cyber Strategy and Forces

Published in: 2020 12th International Conference on Cyber Conflict (2020). doi: 10.23919/CyCon49761.2020.9131723

Posted on RAND.org on October 22, 2020

by Bilyana Lilly, Joe Cheravitch

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Russian cyberattacks against military and civilian infrastructure in the West have become a persistent challenge. Despite the importance of this topic and the excellent scholarship already published on these issues, there is a need for more detailed data and analysis on the role of cyberattacks in Russia's security strategy and its reflection in the evolution of Russia's cyber forces. A better understanding of Russia's strategy and cyber actors, particularly the growing role of the military in these issues, can facilitate an improvement in Western governments' policies to defend against future Russian activity. To address this issue, this article will outline the role of information and cyber operations in Russia's information warfare doctrine and will analyze the recruitment efforts and modus operandi of Russia's cyber departments, particularly psychological and cyber operations units within military intelligence. The paper will conclude by examining the likely future of Russia's behavior in cyberspace and how various state-sponsored actors might influence it. The paper asserts that although Russia's doctrine suggests a defensive and cooperative posture in response to threats in the information space, officials' promulgations and military literature reveal a predilection for the development of offensive cyber capabilities and operations, which are shaped by Russia's threat perceptions and doctrine, and the institutional cultures of the departments within the military conducting them.

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