Posted on May 2, 2022 at 5:48 PM
In February when Russia invaded Ukraine, the world expected Ukraine to crumble and surrender in a matter of days. But it’s been more than two months now and Ukraine is still holding strong, although it’s still under assault. Russia has also had casualties from the ongoing war, both on the physical battleground and in cyberspace.
Russia Suffers More Cyber Attacks
Russia’s military intelligence has one of the most dangerous and sophisticated online malware and threat groups in the world. The group has successfully disrupted some organizations in the world through the deployment of malware. However, this was at the early stages of the invasion, a series of cyber counterattacks have hit Russia hard.
So, as Ukraine is successfully defending its territories, it has shown the might to win the cyber war as well. As it stands, Russia has suffered more cyberattacks than Ukraine – something that is considered not possible if not for the war, considering Russia’s cyber sophistication. Ukraine’s exploit against Russia in cyberspace could be attributed to the thousands of hacktivists supporting Ukraine for Russia’s invasion of its territory.
For more than 10 years, U.S. cybersecurity experts have been warning about Russian hacking that utilizes the expertise of financially motivated threat actors. But it seems those that are motivated by sheer passion for perceived justice are winning over the financially-motivated ones.
In the last 18 months, sophisticated Russian-sponsored ransomware groups have short down pandemic-ravaged hospitals, schools, and critical service providers, such as the attack on Colonial Pipeline. They stole and distributed sensitive documents in some cases while promising to attack more American infrastructure if Russian technology was attacked in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.
However, as the war enters its third month, several reports have shown that instead of the United States, it is Russia that is struggling with cyber onslaughts as the country keeps experiencing series of attacks after attacks on its industries and agencies.
Decades Of Russian Government Emails Stolen
Threat actors have stolen decades of government emails to anti-secrecy activities abroad, defaced websites, and plundered Russia’s financial data.
A recent survey has shown that last month, hackers dumped more sensitive data and passwords from Russia into the open web than from any other country. And with the recent events, the mass data dumping could continue as long as the war in Ukraine goes on.
One of the published documents is a cache from the media office of the media regulator, Roskomnadzor, which include drug legalization and antimilitarism. The data also contained reports on the federal intelligence service, which has made several arrests following complaints about government policies.
In another data theft, hackers exposed 20 years of emails from All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting. The latest data theft is regarded as a massive one and can have a massive impact. The massive data was breached by a small activist group known as Network Battalion 65. It was set up when the war started looking certain.
One of the notes on the victim’s network reads, “Federation government: your lack of honor and blatant war crimes have earned you a special prize.”
The Hacktivists Work Alone
The group responsible for the data theft on Russia’s television recently granted its first interview during an encrypted chat with The Washington Post. According to the group, it doesn’t receive support or backing from the Ukrainian government or from elsewhere. It noted that all the infrastructure and tools used in the hack are paid for by members of the group. They simply spend some time out of their dedication to their job and families to lend their support to Ukraine using the cyber attack.
Christopher Painter, a former U.S. diplomat on cyber issues noted that the increase in scope and frequency of such attacks could pose a risk and interfere with covet government operations. But for now, it seems to be helping the U.S. goals in Russia.
He added that a few months ago the U.S agencies were warning government institutions and other companies about the increased threat posed by Russian-sponsored hackers and cybercriminals. However, it appears Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned the table as Russia is now facing the heat of cyber attacks more than any other nation. However, he cautioned that Russia still poses a threat as it still has offensive capabilities.
As a result, cyber security experts and institutions still need to be very vigilant. In the past, the myth of Russian cyber superiority has prevented hackers from other countries to launch attacks due to fear of retaliation. But that myth has been broken, and Russia may now frequently witness cyber threats even after the war is over. Russia may be off-limits to hackers in the past, but not anymore.