Monday, March 10, 2014

Cyber PSYOP and the Crimea

The Russian invasion of the Crimea and the turmoil in Ukraine are all over the news. This most recent aggression seems to be following the pattern set in Georgia and other countries perceived to rightly belong in the Russian sphere of influence.

A tried and true Russian tactic is to control all communications one way or another. By one way or another I mean through people such as managing the state controlled media or via old fashioned kinetic action as described in the Feb 28, 2013 article “Telecom services sabotaged in Ukraine’s Crimea region” (see: which is also the photo source)

NATO to include the US appears to have ruled out military action, however the notion of Cyber influence in this particular case seems to have a great deal of merit.

One of the advantages of being an Armchair Colonel is that you can ponder almost anything with detachment. Given the demographics of the Ukraine, one would think that if the intended audience was the Ukrainian population, then a cyber-campaign focusing on mobile phones would be in order.
Multiple sources claim that there are about 60 million mobile phones and 12 million land line phones used in the Ukraine. Presumably these totals reflect devices bought from carriers within the country and do not reflect devices brought in by travelers and others. The CIA Factbook showed 7.7 million Internet users back in 2009. Given the above it would appear that cyber PSYOP would be appropriate.

From an infrastructure perspective, there is only one land-line provider in Crimea, Ukretelcom  (see  Wikipedia lists 7 Mobile phone companies of Ukraine (see AT&T’s website says that they work through a number of carriers: Beeline, Kyvivstar, Life, MTS and Ukrtelecom. Verizon’s website says that Voice, Data, Messaging, Picture and video are available from Ukraine.

However, perhaps a more intriguing audience would be the invading force themselves. Like soldiers from anywhere, these troops want to stay in touch if they can so it is likely that they have brought their own mobile phones. If so, they might represent a more lucrative influence target.

A campaign working either audience could consist of a family of SMS messages with a predetermined pace and repetition factor. Alternatively, barraging (similar to SPAM) of appropriate ISPs (assuming they’re up and functioning) could be another avenue of influence attack. One could adopt a combination of SPAM and phishing tactics to accomplish the influence goals.

From an intelligence perspective, if the commercial networks are down due to Russian aggression, perhaps there is a network of Ham radio operators who are able to communicate to the outside world and provide the eyes on view.
Reader contributions encouraged.

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