The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament published an “Annual Report 2016–2017” which squarely blames Russia for the shootdown of MH17 in July 2014, for the illegal invasion of Crimea, for cyber operations against the West, for Information Warfare against the West.
Basically, UK intelligence blames Russia for continuing Cold War practices on a never-ending basis.
This is well worth a read. The British do not seem to mince words, we in the West could learn a few lessons from them.
The extracts below are the key takeaways from the report. The first, paragraph 140, is a critical component that the West does not seem to conceive. They perceive there is no accountability for their actions in the information world and within the cyber realm, in my opinion, therefore their actions never cross a threshold for which they may be held responsible. The laws in place do not perceive their actions as illegal. Unethical and immoral actions also have no consequences.
A few conclusions about Russia (the asterisks are redacted sections):
140. It appears that Russia has a high-risk tolerance, and is not targeted in its use of offensive cyber capabilities. In the cyber world, DI informed us that in Russia “the risk appetite is quite different and they are quite prepared to use the world as a range, [saying] ‘we will give it a go and see what happens’ ”. 160 Equally, MI5 has said in relation to stories about potential Russian cyber interferences in the Democratic National Committee: *** they clearly are operating to risk thresholds which are nothing like those that the West operates. ***. 161
141. It has been reported that cyber attacks such as that on the Democratic National Committee are part of a wider Russian operation to disrupt and agitate Western political discourse – an operation which includes more traditional subversion, propaganda and disinformation campaigns.162 It is also possible that the false-flagging of cyber attacks to Islamist extremist groups is an attempt to promote fear and discord in the West. We asked MI5 about these issues and were told: ***. 163
142. SIS informed us that “all three Russian intelligence services are tasked with carrying out ‘information operations’ [which] goes beyond promulgating the Russian perspective and includes the creating and propagation of forgeries and falsehoods”. One obvious area is Ukraine, where:
Russia conducts information warfare on a massive scale… An early example of this was a hugely intensive, multi-channel propaganda effort to persuade the world that Russia bore no responsibility for the shooting down of [Malaysian Airlines flight] MH-17 (an outright falsehood: we know beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russian military supplied and subsequently recovered the missile launcher).164
144. GCHQ sees this type of interference as being likely to continue and to grow: Russia has… in Europe [tried] to influence opinion, not necessarily through cyber, through all sorts of other traditional methods, and I think it’s about thinking through… how you would influence a particular constituency to agree with a different direction, and it might not… be through cyber attack or stealing data, it might be through rather more basic influencing campaigns as we’ve seen Russia engage in over the many many years.167
The nations which pose a threat to the UK are, in order, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. These are, indeed, a nefarious group. None, however, receive as much damning attention as does Russia.
Annex B’s recommendations and conclusions are most interesting, starting with “Individuals returning to the UK after having been fighting in Syria and Iraq represent a significant threat to UK security.”
Overall, good read, good conclusions, and good recommendations. I would, however, like to see a massive expansion of paragraph 142.