The Art of Maskirovka: Russian Intel linked to DNC & DCCC hacks

Information Security Researcher & OpSec guru thegrugq is piecing various independently researched information together, leaving no doubt that the FSB was behind recent DNC and DCCC hacks.

In my elaborate August post on Smart-City security and ethical considerations, I pointed out that hacking and meddling in a foreign nation’s elections is neither new, nor unexpected.

Workers inflate a model of a Russian S-300 long range surface-to-air missile system at the compound of the RusBal balloon manufacturer outside Moscow April 8, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files

Workers inflate a model of a Russian S-300 long range surface-to-air missile system at the compound of the RusBal balloon manufacturer outside Moscow April 8, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files

Russia’s cyber attacks against foreign nations fit in fact perfectly into the Gerasimov Doctrine of Russian Military Tactics (excellent read on the subject are Mark Galeotti‘s ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War, and Charles Bartles Getting Gerasimov Right). Bartles research explains why “Gerasimov’s Doctrine” is not a new Russian development, but is a response to the West’s new way of war, and description of the future of war in general:

Some of these new means involve using conventional military forces in new ways such as in an undeclared capacity (“polite people” or “little green men”) or as peacekeepers. Other means are completely new in modern Russia including: a Special Operations Forces Command, Cossacks, private military companies, foreign legionnaires, and even one biker gang. Arguably, most changes found in Russia’s new doctrine can in some way be related to the view of “indirect and asymmetric methods” that General Gerasimov believes will be a factor in current and future wars.

Dismissing mounting, independently researched sources as speculation, and demanding 100% proof which would pass in court (a court possibly in conflict with it’s own national intelligence reasoning on security), neglects that putting 100% certainty on counter/-intel affairs of a nation state (even your own) is an illusion. Accountability in this job is only required when it doesn’t violate your own nations security interests. In the current geopolitical climate, I wouldn’t even be 100% certain if we’d have confessions of individuals. (You don’t have to be Ludlum to understand that capturing a foreign spy is probably not covered on national news. And if it is, please question yourself why and who might benefit).

The Russian Military Encyclopedia describes maskirovka (Маскировка) (deception or lit. “masking”) as:

“Strategic maskirovka is carried out at national and theater levels to mislead the enemy as to political and military capabilities, intentions and timing of actions. In these spheres, as war is but an extension of politics, it includes political, economic and diplomatic measures as well as military”

Maskirovka is not unique to Russia and part of basic military strategy. Here is Sun Tzu making the same point +2500 years ago:


In light of what we know, there is no doubt that the hacks must be attributed to Russian intelligence services in some way or another. There are only 2 options: Either the FSB is doing a horrible job at covering it’s tracks, or it’s all still part of the script. But labeling their involvement as speculation would be ignorant.


Now make yourself a fresh cup of Cyber Tea and then let’s continue on with some (weekend) reading on Russian Cyber Security:

  • To understand how smart-cities empower the defence sector please read:NATO Cyber Security Framework [pdf]
  • Cyber War in Perspective: Analysis from the Crisis in Ukraine (BlackHat 2016) [pdf]
  • Russia’s new generation warfare in Ukraine: Implications for Latvian defence policy [pdf]
  • Cross-Domain Coercion: The Current Russian Art of Military Strategy [link]
  • Denial-of-Service: The Estonian Cyberwar and Its Implications for U.S. National Security [link]
  • Fog of Falsehood: Russian Strategy of Deception and the Conflict in Ukraine [link]
  • Remembering The Ghost Army that Saved US Lives in WWII [video]
Joachim Bauernberger

Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.