The Russian ICC (VI): SVR

150px-svrlogoThe SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki) was the first heir of the KGB with its own entity, inheriting the attributions of the First General Directorate; is responsible for Russian foreign intelligence, providing the national authorities with intelligence that can benefit Russia in different areas that have evolved from the military and defense (especially the 1990s) to technological, industrial, scientific and economic areas. To achieve this goal the SVR is based primarily on HUMINT capabilities, both open and clandestine, theoretically relying on the GRU -which we will see in a coming post- for its signals intelligence needs.

In this SIGINT area the SVR works together with the GRU in strategic intelligence (at least in theory, since the rivalry between Russian agencies is well known: let us remember the “joint” operation of the SVR with the GRU of the SIGINT station in Lourdes, Cuba), as opposed to the more operative intelligence of the FSB; the main objective of the SVR, irrespective of the discipline used, is the acquisition of information and development of intelligence about the capabilities, actions, plans, intentions… both real and potential of third countries against the vital interests of the Russian Federation (as we have mentioned, even economic ones).

From a cyber standpoint, the capabilities of the FSB are far superior to those of the SVR, a primarily HUMINT service; for this reason, and since the FSB is also authorized to apply its capabilities against interests outside Russian borders, the level of activity and threat of the FSB is greater than that of the SVR in this area. The external service only has an IT Directorate which, although originally dedicated to internal support and security tasks for the Service, currently this Directorate – or another, and therefore the Service – is supposed to have CNO capabilities and that it has somehow broken the air gap to achieve unauthorized access to US classified networks ([1]).

We cannot disdain these CNO capabilities, which although smaller than the FSB are sure to be impressive, nor the potential recruitment of human resources to enhance cyber activities in any way: remember, not all APTs are based on malware, and when an intrusion or persistence is technologically complex, the use of human collaborators, for example people with access to the information of the objective or the systems that treat it, can be more effective … And in a service focused on HUMINT, this is surely taken into account.


  • [1] Viktor Nagy. The geostrategic struggle in cyberspace between the United States, China, and Russia. AARMS. Vol. 11, No. 1 (2012) 13–26.

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