Russian Military Intelligence Agency the GRU are Putin’s Cyber Stormtroopers
Date: 30 Dec 2018 Category :
Former U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU has always been seen as the more brutish cousin of Russia’s main intelligence agency, previously known as the KGB. Gennady Gudkov, a Russian opposition politician who served in the KGB and then in its FSB successor agency, said GRU officers referred to themselves as the “badass guys who act.”
“ ‘Need us to whack someone? We’ll whack him,’ ” he said. “ ‘Need us to grab Crimea? We’ll grab Crimea.’ ”
In the United States, the GRU is perhaps best known as the agency that led the way in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a July indictment of 12 of its officers obtained by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
But interviews and public records in Russia show that its reach extends to the battlefields of Ukraine and Syria and to school classrooms in Moscow — reflecting the multipronged approach Putin is taking in his conflict with the West.
“Putin has become more comfortable with risk,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former U.S. deputy national intelligence officer. “The GRU fits his moment.”
Under Putin — a former FSB chief — the GRU has taken the anything-goes approach to cyberspace. GRU units that focused on propaganda and decryption in the Soviet era are now conducting psychological operations over the Internet and waging cyberattacks. In 2013, the GRU launched a “science company” as part of the Defense Ministry’s effort to recruit top talent from universities.
“Historically, the GRU has been Russia’s main agency for operating in uncontrolled spaces, which has meant civil wars and the like,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian intelligence at the Institute of International Relations in Prague. “In some ways, the Internet is today’s uncontrolled space.”