Five Key Takeaways From The Russia Report

  1. The UK Parliament’s Intelligence & Security Committee found “Russia has sought to employ organised crime groups to supplement its cyber skills”
    This is pivotal, as it makes attribution much, much harder. Using crime groups, or just co-opting their tools and software, makes it easier for states such as Russia to hide their cyber activities. It’s a process that’s been going on for more than two decades, as I explain in my new book, Crime Dot Com.
  2. Registration of foreign agents isn’t going to help
    One of the responses reportedly being considered is to set up a register of foreign agents, as they have in the US.
    If the American experience is anything to go by, this will be helpful only insofar as it would allow us to kick out such agents when we want to make a point/retaliate (as the US did when during the “sexy spy” incident back in 2010).
    It will do absolutely nothing about the cyber threat and influence/disinformation campaigns, which are conducted from overseas.
  3. Who the hell is in charge of election interference?
    Traditionally it would be the Electoral Commission, but it seems their writ doesn’t extend to online propaganda campaigns.
    It’s depressing to read how disengaged the intelligence agencies were regarding attempts to influence elections and referenda. It seems these were considered “political matters” that were not for the agencies to intervene in.
    Expect to see this “hot potato” land in someone’s lap soon.
  4. Reining in Russian influence needn’t be complicated
    There are some (relatively) straightforward ways to crack down on Russian money coming into the UK and creating undue influence. Tying property purchases to residence in the country would be a good start. Oh, and making it harder to register companies here – from my experience, Companies House does little to check registrants’ details, as evidenced by the number of times my investigations have led me to a company address which turns out to be a letter box in a Mailboxes Etc shop.
  5. Release the data and lay charges
    Fun as it is to read 56 pages of ISC assessment, this report will have limited impact, and is already being dismissed as “Russophobia” by Russia.
    Instead, let’s look at the US criminal indictment of the so-called Fancy Bear hacking group in relation to the 2016 Presidential election. It’s 29 pages of dense argument, giving names, dates, times, email and IP addresses. These days, if you want to call someone out in cyberspace, this is where the bar is set.
    It’ll be interesting to see if the UK ever produces such a document,

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