Moscow’s Digital Offensive: Building Sovereignty in Cyberspace

June 2021 No Comments

Speaker(s): Pallin, C. (Swedish Defence Research Agency)

Date: 29 July 2021

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Carolina Vendil Pallin (Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)) as a part of its SMA IIJO Speaker Series.

Dr. Pallin commented that Russia’s conception of cyber operations is different than most Western countries. The term cyber is rarely found in Russian security documents; instead information space is more frequently used. Its choice of terminology shows Russia’s priority is controlling the information available to its domestic population. This control, which allows Russia to create a sovereign space online, is meant to alleviate the Kremlin’s insecurities. The Roskmnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) was given direct control over Russia’s internet in the case of an existential crisis or war. However, Roskomnadzor had already taken control of Russia’s internet and slowed down Twitter and all addresses containing ‘’ to stop anti-Russian messages from reaching its civilian population.

While Russia is concerned with the defense of its sovereign internet, it is also very active in its foreign cyber operations. Currently, Russia is among the top 10 origin countries for malign cyber operations. Furthermore, Russian cyber operations are active along the entire scale including: a) disruption, b) espionage, and c) sabotage. These cyber operations often occur covertly as well, which allows Russia to maintain plausible deniability. Dr. Pallin stated that there are several dilemmas facing Russian cyber operations, including but not limited to: technology evolving faster than Russia’s legal policies, cyber operations cost, and the ideological differences between older and younger Russian generations.

Speaker Session Recording

Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.

Briefing Materials

Pallin FOI Report


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