Russia launched a cyber attack to delete data from thousands of computers in Ukraine before invading its territory

This is how the cyber attack launched by Russia on Ukraine works (DADO RUVIC/)

Computer experts have identified a new variety of malware (malignant program that performs harmful actions on a computer system) that it was dropped on Ukrainian targets as part of Russia’s offensive.

As reported by the British media Guardian, the UK government and banks said they were on alert by online attacks using malware that disables computers.

Western forecasts of the Russian invasion included a cyber attack along with their military outpost.

“The period leading up to the invasion of Ukraine was marked by the deployment of “cleaner” malware. A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which cripples websites by bombarding them with false information requests, also hit Ukrainian government sites.

Computer experts identified a new strain of malware that was dropped on Ukrainian targets as part of Russia's offensive
Computer experts identified a new strain of malware that was dropped on Ukrainian targets as part of Russia‘s offensive (MIKHAIL METZEL / KREMLIN POOL //)

After the start of the operation launched by the Kremlin, the agency Reuters He reported that requests for hackers from Ukraine who were volunteers in the underground began to appear on digital forums, in a bid to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber espionage missions against Russian troops.

“Ukrainian cyber community! It’s time to get involved in the cyber defense of our country.” one post said.

According Reuters, Yegor Aushev, co-founder of a cybersecurity company in Kiev, said he wrote the post at the request of a senior Defense Ministry official who contacted him on Thursday. Aushev’s Cyber ​​Unit Technologies firm is known for working with the Ukrainian government to defend critical infrastructure.

Prior to the Russian war advance, ESET Research Labs, a cybersecurity company based in Slovakia, reported detecting a new piece of malware data wipe on hundreds of computers in Ukraine.

“ESET said large organizations had been affected, while security experts from Symantec’s threat intelligence team said the malware had affected Ukrainian government contractors in Latvia and Lithuania and a financial institution in Ukraine. ESET has named the malware, which renders computers inoperable by disabling reboot, HermeticWiper. Guardian.

In 2017 the NotPetya attack devastated Ukrainian businesses. The malicious program did a cleanup that encrypted computers irretrievably and spread to other countriescausing USD10 billion in damage worldwide.

The attack paralyzes websites by bombarding them with false information requests
The attack paralyzes websites by bombarding them with requests for false information (REUTERS /)

Alexi Drew, a senior analyst at RAND Europe, a research institute, said cyberoffensives tends to escalate quickly if attacks spread widely to other countries, although in the case of HermeticWiper the malware does not seem to self-propagate, nor did NotPetya. However, other attacks could be different, he added.

“There is a history of cyber attacks not staying where they need to go. If you look at NotPetya, the splash damage there was significant. There is a danger of escalation here because offensive cyber activity is fundamentally not very good at staying where you put it.”quoted the British medium.

On the subject, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said that officials were on alert for cyber attacks and campaigns of Moscow disinformation.

“While we monitor developments, we will be especially aware of the potential for cyber attacks and disinformation that emanates from Russia”, explained the minister.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel
British Home Secretary Priti Patel (NEIL HALL/)

Some British financial institutions, such as Lloyds Bank, said Thursday that they were on “high alert.”

The company’s CEO, Charlie Nunn, explained that internally they are focused on cyber risk controls.

Preventive reviews are being carried out in advance. The issue was discussed at a meeting between the government and banking industry leaders on Wednesday.Nunn added.

According to Symantec, the malware attack that hit Ukraine this week was planned for a long time. A Ukrainian organization suffered an initial hack in December last year related to the recent incident.

Some British financial institutions said they were on
Some British financial institutions said they were on “maximum alert” (VALENTYN OGIRENKO /)

“DDoS attacks were also deployed before the military offensive to create confusion, according to US cybersecurity firm Mandiant. In a DDoS attack, websites are inundated with annoying requests for information and become inaccessible. Wednesday’s targets included the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest commercial bank. Guardian.

“It’s not so much the technical disruption, it’s what it does to undermine confidence, like in the financial sector. It makes people pretty nervous. That’s his biggest secondary impact.”said Jamie Collier, a Mandiant consultant, who described DDoS as being akin to putting a thousand envelopes in a mailbox every second.

However, Dr. Lennart Maschmeyer of the Center for Security Studies at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, said Russia’s cyber strategy so far seemed more improvised. “A plausible scenario for more devastating cyberattacks was that Russia had long planned this invasion and planted implants in Ukraine’s critical infrastructure to cause massive disruptions to coincide with the military invasion. That doesn’t seem to be the case. The cyber operations that we have seen do not show prolonged preparation and instead seem quite messy,” he explained.


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