Russia has incorporated modern technology to more effectively promote their influence and spread misinformation, according to Robert Jorgensen, director of UVU’s cybersecurity program. Jorgensen along with Frederick White, associate vice president of engaged learning, analyzed Russian President Vladimir Putin and cybersecurity at a UVUSA-sponsored Pizza and Politics, April 11, at the Ragan Theater.
White focused his portion of the presentation on Russia and Putin’s intentions to undermine U.S. democracy, disrupt the relationship among North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, reestablish Cold War era spheres of influence and to return Russia to the status of a world superpower.
“[Vladimir Putin] would like to re-establish what he calls ‘spheres of influence,’” said White. “Basically, go back to kind of a cold war era where there was an area that Russia controlled and there was an area that the U.S. kind of controlled … he would like to go back to that. So that means, obviously, stopping the expansion of NATO.”
White also discussed the tactics that Putin and the Russian government are using to accomplish their goals. White stated that Russia is practicing espionage similarly to how they did during the Cold War and that they have simply integrated those tactics and techniques with modern technology.
Incidents of Russian hacking, especially against organizations and individuals in the United States have made the topic of cyber-warfare and espionage more relevant.
A report titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” was released by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, which includes the CIA, NSA and FBI. That report describes a portion of Russian cyber-activity aimed at the U.S. and democratic process.
Jorgensen elaborated on the cyber-warfare component of Russian actions. He echoed White’s assertion that fundamental aspects of Russian espionage have not changed.
“Sergei Tretyakov, he was a SVR officer, that is kind of like the CIA for Russia. Basically, he defected in 2000, after being a double agent for the United States, and he talked about how operatives would submit propaganda to the internet using the New York Public Library system so people could not trace where it was coming from,” said Jorgensen. “These are old spy tactics that have just been updated.”
Jorgensen spoke about the basic methods and organizational structures used by the Russians to disseminate information, allowing for concealment of the true source of information and causing confusion about fact and fiction on the internet and in the media.
In addition to the national and global importance of these topics, the discussion is important to UVU students.
Jacob Davis, a junior and political science student at UVU, helped organize the event. According to Davis, the topics in the session were chosen because of their importance to UVU students. UVUSA conducts surveys to learn which topics matter to students, and believes that the event reflects student concerns.