The disrupted cyber-attack on the chemical weapons watchdog and allegations of a sophisticated Chinese hardware hack have highlighted the dangers
The farcical aspects of the attempted Russian cyber-attack reported by the UK and the Netherlands on Thursday must be satisfying to those who counter such efforts, and are superficially amusing to any observer. It is unlikely that Vladimir Putin has relished seeing the incompetence of the GRU, the military intelligence agency, exposed so thoroughly. His mood may not have improved on learning that it seems to have inadvertently identified more than 300 agents in its cyber division.
But there is very little to laugh about here. The target was the international chemical weapons watchdog, which was investigating the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia – which led to the death of a British citizen – and a chemical weapons attack in Syria. The Netherlands believes the suspects had also targeted the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which found it was hit by a Russian military missile; 298 people died. The evidence of how far Russia will go in both the online and physical realm mounts, while its denials – it dismissed the latest allegations as “spy mania” – become less and less convincing. The sloppiness that characterised the Netherlands mission was perhaps born of arrogance and the sense that implausible denials are in themselves part of the pattern of destabilisation – sending the message that truth does not matter and that the GRU cannot be stopped.