In Episode 15 of the Cybersecurity & Geopolitical Podcast from Security magazine, hosts Cyjax CISO Ian Thornton-Trump and Sky News security expert Philip Ingram, MBE, of Grey Hare Media discuss current developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, analyzing recent events in the context of the entire conflict.

Then, the pair shifts their focus to the intelligence landscape, examining geopolitical shifts in threat actors including Russia and China, as well as analyzing counterterrorism efforts from NATO intelligence agencies. Finally, Thornton-Trump and Ingram highlight data privacy concerns and the high profile of TikTok data collection, contextualizing China as a potential strategic threat.

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A spring in Ukraine’s step

In this episode, hosts Ingram and Thornton-Trump kick off by pulling apart the recent developments in the Ukraine/Russia war, discussing what they mean in the context of the conflict. After eight months of relentless, offensive pressure by Russia in what will be known in the history books as "The Battle of Bakhmut," it appears Ukraine forces are exhausting the Russian army and Wagner mercenary forces. Thornton-Trump and Ingram consider what spring will unleash as Russia continues its assault and Ukraine gears up for a counter-offensive armed with an increasing amount of Western military technology.

Spy vs. spy vs. spy

The focus then shifts to "spy vs. spy vs. spy," exploring the interwar period leading up to World War II and the profound similarities between Russia’s current provocations and Western intelligence agencies response. Unlike World War II, China has become an important and active player on the global stage, wielding significant influence in global affairs.

Our hosts question if the U.K.’s and other western nations’ obsession with terrorism and counterterrorism operations has allowed Russia to lurk and grow significant disruptive capabilities. What’s more, has the U.K. done enough to reign in Russian influence and support? And why is U.K. society so attractive as a Russian espionage target?

Storm over Hungary

Wrapping up this segment, Ingram and Thornton-Trump discuss the other countries in close proximity to the conflict also embroiled in "the great espionage game" that’s unfolding in the region. All have various pressure points that both Russian and Western/NATO intelligence services are seeking to leverage. How will Poland, Germany and Turkey respond to these pressures? More importantly, why is Hungary likely to take center stage for immense political and espionage activity soon?

One of the key takeaways is how our hosts think "maskirovka," the Russian doctrine of deception, may be leveraged to distract Western governments, while Russia exacerbates the current domestic crisis and financial troubles found in many NATO and Western countries. Does China have the most to gain from the domestic troubles at home?

TikTok time bomb

Ingram and Thornton-Trump close this episode sharing views on the cyber impact of social media and the value it brings to intelligence operations through personal data gathering apps like TikTok and augmented reality games like Pokemon Go! The value of personal data as targeting information for APT operations cannot be underestimated.

It appears China has figured out how to embed attractive data gathering features into viral applications to ensure compliance with Chinese Intelligence law. Will this make China a far greater strategic threat than is currently believed?