In 2019 Russia will likely try to influence the European Parliament elections, continue intelligence and influence operations against the West, according to the latest annual threat assessment presented by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service says, ONA reports citing Euronews.
Russia will target the May 2019 European Parliamentary elections, the report claims, with a likely focus on the larger member states — Germany, France, and Italy — where it can hope to obtain the most mandates (about one third of the MEPs come from these countries) on the composition of the EU Parliament, whose members are elected for five-year terms and where some of the political parties have clearly expressed support to the current Kremlin policies towards the West.
"Russia is very likely to try to intervene in the European Parliament elections to secure as many seats as possible for pro-Russian or eurosceptical political forces," writes the report's author Mikk Marran, director general of the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service.
According to the report, Russia supports its allies through Russian-controlled media, by organizing high-level meetings and visits what attract media attention, offers covert financial assistance if necessary, discredits opponents (by stealing and leaking internal information), intentionally spreads false information in social media.
The report adds that Russian intelligence services will continue the extensive cyber espionage campaign against the West that they have pursued for years, with the military intelligence service, called the GRU, and Russia's spy agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB) directing most operations.
Cyber espionage groups, namely APT28 and Sandworm are the most active of the Russian-backed groups, mostly exploiting simple online tools and tactics, such as phishing campaigns and "most likely to blur the line between clearly state-sponsored attacks and the activities of online activists and profiteering cyber criminals," the report says.
SNAKE APT, a group connected to the FSB, operates more covertly, the report says. "Most cyber and information operations originating from Russia are led by the special services, particularly the FSB and GRU," who often enlist cyber criminals to work for them.
According to the report, Russian intelligence and special services use human, cyber, and signals intelligence — electronic and radio signals — to collect information, including tapping into civilian communication services inside and outside the country.