US national cyber director asks for vigilance following Russian cyberattack

By Anna Macdonald

Thursday May 12, 2022

Chris Inglis
US national cyber director Chris Inglis. (AAP Image/Steven Saphore)

There are numerous aspects of Russia’s recent cyberattacks that need serious attention, according to US national cyber director Chris Inglis.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute on Wednesday, Inglis said questions of why Russia has not attacked outside of Ukraine, and why it has not been successful in its cyberattacks are questions that needed answers. 

A cyberattack on Ukraine has been attributed to Russia this week.

Following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has had the years since to prepare itself for not only attacks in the physical space but also within cyberspace, Inglis pointed out. 

“Russians exhibited a certain degree of arrogance and hubris going in and they thought they might own outright territory within a very short period of time. [They] therefore didn’t take the time and trouble to conduct attacks that would have then made it more difficult for [Ukraine] to manage and [then for Russia to] administer the systems that they would inherit.

“It may well be that it is harder than it looks,” Inglis stated.

Inglis emphasised the triggering of NATO’s Article 5 by a cyberattack was unsettled law, and the effects of such an attack would have to be examined before a contravention could be found. 

On what China was learning from Russia’s cyberattacks, Inglis said Beijing may not see the Russian strategy as a cautionary tale.

“It may be what they’re concluding is it’s not being competently executed, and that would then be a further challenge for us. It won’t dissuade the Chinese to observe what the Russians are doing,” he said.

Speaking more broadly about cybersecurity, the director recommended constant vigilance rather than waiting for a catalyst-type incident, which, he said, was less probable.

“It may well be a cyber Pearl Harbor is happening all around us, even as we speak,” Inglis said.

“It’s just sufficiently diffused in time and space that we haven’t had that collective appreciation of it. There hasn’t been that shared, cathartic moment. I think that’s more likely and therefore, the sense of urgency should be all of the greater we shouldn’t wait around for that thunderclap.”


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