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Russian Cyber Warfare & American Vulnerabilities
ONC Editorial

Aug 29, 2023

Explaining heightened Russian cyber warfare and U.S. responses.

On Dec. 13, 2020, the press reported one of the “largest and most sophisticated [cyber] attacks the world has ever seen.” After going undetected for almost 9 months, within days of its discovery, more than 200 organizations around the world reported infections and mass data breaches. 

The attack, linked to a group known as the APT29 or “Cozy Bear,” targeted many agencies such as the UK Government, NATO, the European Parliament, Microsoft and several U.S. Federal agencies including the Department of Commerce, Homeland Security, Treasury and the State Department. This group of hackers is believed to be supported by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Russia’s aggressiveness in the cyber realm is not anything new; however, the scale to which Russia is increasingly engaging in cyber warfare is of immediate concern. A 2023 report from the Center of Strategic and International Studies shows that Russian cyber-attacks remain a prevalent issue. 

With premier intelligence services and extraordinary hacking capabilities, alongside the aging American cyber security defense systems, Russia has the needed tools and setting to continue attacking security systems in the U.S. at mass scales. Studies show that a majority of the Federal Government’s websites fail to meet basic standards for security, speed and mobile friendliness. 

Although there seems to be a general consensus on greater cyber protections between the GOP and Democrats, the two parties have different priorities when it comes to funding cyber defense upgrades and research projects. 

Moreover, Congress seems to be more concerned with a specific sub-topic of election security, which has essentially sidelined the massive number of other cyber security threats that need to be addressed. 

The U.S. Government must identify that Russia’s cyber warfare is not and will not be limited to election interference. Rather than engaging in partisan stalemates, the government must take immediate action to enhance the American cyber defense systems.

Sayyed Hadi Razmjo was a Foreign Policy and Defense intern for ONC during the Spring 2022 semester. 


CSIS. "Significant Cyber Incidents Since 2006." Center for Strategic and International Studies, updated July 2023.

Sanger, David, et al. “Scope of Russian Hacking Becomes Clear: Multiple U.S. Agencies Were Hit.” The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2021,

“92 Percent of Most Popular Federal Government Websites Fail to Meet Basic Standards for Security, Speed, Mobile Friendliness, or Accessibility.” ITIF, 8 Mar. 2017,

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