Sweden and Finland’s NATO Actions Raise Cyberattack Concerns

Russia regards NATO’s expansion as a threat to its existence. Therefore, Finland and Sweden’s decision to join has generated concerns about cyber reprisal. 

It’s too soon to tell how Russia would wield its cyber operations against Sweden, Finland, or other NATO allies, including the U.S.

Still, experts say it will likely launch amateurish and small-scale cyberattacks to oppose the move. 

It Might Not Be Too Severe

Such attacks wouldn’t be as severe as Moscow’s cyberattacks against Ukraine during its invasion. 

According to American Enterprise Institute researcher Jason Blessing, Russia is unlikely to attempt cyberattacks on Finland and Sweden. 

Blessing said Russia might deploy different cyber strategies than Ukraine, as it has no invasion plans for Finland or Sweden. 

He noted rather than launching a full-scale cyberwar, Russia would likely conduct simple strikes, like website graffiti and scattered denial-of-service attacks, to damage its adversaries’ networks. 

Russia isn’t happy about Finland and Sweden joining NATO. It threatened “retaliation” if Finland joins the 30-nation military alliance. 

Putin regards NATO’s growth as a danger. Moscow justified its invasion with Ukraine’s talk of joining NATO. Finland’s desire to join NATO shows how Moscow’s campaign backfired. 

President Biden spoke with the presidents of Finland and Sweden on Friday about joining NATO. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with the international leaders of Sweden and Finland and NATO allies in Berlin on Saturday. 

NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said last month that both countries would be embraced into the alliance if they joined and could soon become members. 

Both nations have long shunned military ties and sought neutrality. Finland last battled Russia, then the Soviet Union, in 1944. Sweden hasn’t had a military alliance in over 200 years, preferring NATO. 

Finland, Sweden Fear Reprisal

A Finnish transmission operator announced on Friday that a Russian energy provider would stop importing energy to Finland on Saturday. 

Finnish MPs have warned Moscow could cut off gas to the nation, Reuters reports.

In April, a denial-of-service attack brought down Finland’s foreign and security ministries’ websites. The attack happened while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was addressing Finland’s parliament. 

Experts say Finland and Sweden have far better cyber defenses than Ukraine and would be better able to protect against Russian intrusions. 

Finland even recently won a NATO cyber defense competition.

Nevertheless, the U.S. and other NATO members may help the two Nordic countries in cyberspace.

According to Blessing, the US may send one of its “hunt forward” teams with the US Cyber Command to help Finland and Sweden, as it did with Ukraine before the invasion. 

Wolff said it’s possible, but improbable, that U.S. and NATO aid may compel Russia to undertake cyberattacks against them. 

Supporting Finland and Norway is unlikely to expose the U.S. or other NATO countries to more cyberattacks than supporting Ukraine, Wolff said. 

To expand NATO, all 30 member-state governments must confirm Finland and Sweden’s membership.  The Turkish president opposed the expansion on Friday.