In August, Reuters published an article “Exclusive: Russian weapons in Ukraine powered by hundreds of Western parts,” which highlights the prominence of Western-developed parts in Russian weapons. This article focuses on the critical need for every organization to be more proactive in securing technology from unwanted players. To make this a reality, a more holistic and proactive defense is required.
Government sanctions are not enough
The United States introduced wide-ranging sanctions against Russia in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, investigations have shown that “Russia’s military [still] remains reliant on foreign microchips… and that Western governments were slow to limit Russia’s access to these technologies particularly after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.”[i]
To truly empower sanctions and make them effective, technology developers – as well as their partners – must have a more holistic and preventive defense posture. Creating this defense mechanism involves:
- Knowing what and who to protect
- Ensuring that all touchpoints are secure
- Invest in long-term, evolving solutions
Knowing what and who to protect
Organizations must identify and prioritize their key assets and technologies that are being pursued by adversarial entities, including nation-state actors, and allocate resources accordingly. Organizations must be strategic in identifying and deploying protection to what is most vulnerable.
The same process must then expand for the protection of talent. Organizations must be aware of key personnel that have access to these technologies and protect them proactively. It is common for nation-state actors to do thorough research on an organization’s personnel to know who to approach. To defend against this systemic attack from nation-state actors, organizations need to find innovative solutions to protect their most important people.
Ensure that all touchpoints – including procurement partners as well as distributors – are secure
The U.S. government announced in March that Russian firms used front companies to purchase electronics for Russia’s military. In fact, the Russian customs records show that in March 2021, a Russian company imported $600,000 worth of electronics manufactured by Texas Instruments through a Hong Kong distributor. Seven months later, in October 2021, the same company imported another $1.1 million worth of microelectronics made by Xilinx.
This portrays the desperate need for the comprehensive visibility into the supply chain risk landscape. To protect your technology from beginning to end, every touchpoint needs to be secure and that requires comprehensive visibility into partners’ relationships with other entities. By identifying existing and past relationships that partners had with other entities, organizations can mitigate risks and pursue safer and more compliant partnerships.
Invest in long-term, evolving solutions
A holistic and proactive defense cannot be achieved overnight. It is an evolving and expanding process with long-term goals in mind. After all, this is the way that many nation-state actors function. They are evolving and expanding their strategies and tactics.
For example, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took place in 2022, evidence shows that “Moscow acquired critical technology from companies in the United States, Europe and Asia in the years before the invasion.”[i] [emphasis added] Countries like China also routinely produce their evolving vision and objectives through documents like Made in China 2025 or series of Five-Year Plans.
As nation-state actors and other adversarial entities evolve, so should organizations and their strategies and tactics for defense. Devastating effects of Russian weapons that are powered by over 450 foreign components are a call for every industry and every organization to be mindful of protecting their technology and innovations.
The Reuters article concludes that “Russia’s military could be permanently weakened if Western governments strengthen export controls, manage to shut down the country’s clandestine procurement networks and prevent sensitive components being manufactured in states that support Russia.” It causes all technology developers in the West to ask what to be done now. We are at the crossroads. Creating more proactive and holistic defense postures is the only way to secure your valuable technology now and in the future.
[i] Macaskill, A. (2022, August 8). Exclusive: Russian weapons in Ukraine powered by hundreds of Western parts, report says. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/exclusive-russian-weapons-ukraine-powered-by-hundreds-western-parts-rusi-2022-08-08/