Russia and Nicaragua have signed a cybersecurity cooperation agreement for the 2022-2026 period, Nicaragua’s Official Gazette indicated. The agreement was made in Managua following cybersecurity meetings.
“They say that they seek to do it peacefully but seeing the situation we are living today at the global level, it sounds more like a spy military strategy than a cybersecurity cooperation strategy,” Víctor Ruíz, founder of the SILIKN cybersecurity center in Mexico, told Diálogo on December 15, 2022.
The goal of the November 22 agreement is to “defend the national sovereignty of each of the participants,” said Oleg Okhramov, deputy secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, who attended the meetings.
Russia has a large array of cyber tools at its disposition and hackers capable of perpetrating disruptive and potentially destructive attacks, reported BBC Mundo. The Kremlin “has attacked different countries at different times,” Ruíz said.
According to the Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2022, in 2021, 90 percent of Russian attacks detected by Microsoft targeted North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states, and 48 percent of these targeted technology companies based in those countries.
Russia also sped up its attempts to compromise information and communications technology companies to disrupt or obtain intelligence from those companies’ government customers in NATO member states, the Microsoft report indicates.
The Conti ransomware gang, with ties to the Kremlin, is among the Russian groups behind cyberattacks in Latin America, the Spanish IT security magazine CSO reported in October. Conti launched attacks against government websites in Costa Rica and Peru in April 2022.
In addition, according to the Microsoft report, on February 23, 2022, the cybersecurity world entered the age of hybrid warfare as Russia launched both physical and digital attacks against Ukraine.
“You have to look at the new [Nicaragua-Russia] alliance as a warning,” Ruíz said. “Russia is looking to deploy its technological and military capabilities to this region, and it is finding allies in Latin America that can enable it to do this.”
Russian technology and strategies may also help the regime to drive Nicaragua’s independent media out of cyberspace, so that the population only knows the regime’s version in a kind of mass indoctrination, reported Nicaraguan independent newspaper La Mesa Redonda.
Since late 2020, Nicaragua has seen an increase in complaints of aggressions using digital media and attempts to sabotage and wipe out social network accounts and independent web platforms, reported Nicaragua’s independent digital daily Fuentes Confiables.
Although Nicaragua has a cybersecurity law, the legislation criminalizes those who criticize the Ortega-Murillo regime on social networks or question its authority, threatening with jailtime those media outlets that according to the regime broadcast “fake news,” reported Nicaragua’s independent media outlet Divergentes.
“This is a political issue,” Ruíz said. “With Nicaragua, Russia seeks to advance to countries like El Salvador or Guatemala, because of their proximity to the United States, to be checking the United States from closer countries.”
David Cattler, NATO’s assistant secretary general for intelligence and security, said that “additional cyber operations are ongoing. Some of these operations have been linked to Russian military intelligence and are designed to cause psychological effects and deplete cyber defense resources,” European news network Euronews reported in September.
As such, “the governments of the region and companies of any size must develop a good cybersecurity strategy to prevent not only an attack or espionage that could come from Nicaragua or Russia, but from any other criminal group,” Ruiz said. “Have a plan based on three pillars: advanced technology, policies and procedures, and cybersecurity training at all levels.”