October 2, 2022
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA
Tech

Russia Is Being Hacked at an Unprecedented Scale

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The order is Issued like clockwork. Every day, often around 5 a.m. local time, the Telegram channel buzzs about a new list of unprecedented “IT Army” targets for hackers in Ukraine. The volunteer group continues to knock off Russian websites offline, using waves of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, flooding websites with traffic requests and making them accessible since the start of the war.

Russian online payment services, government departments, airlines and food companies have been targeted by the IT army for disrupting daily life in Russia. “The Russians have noticed regular interruptions to TV streaming services today,” the Telegram channel’s government-backed operators posted after a claimed operation in mid-April.

The activities of the IT Army were just beginning. The country has faced an unprecedented barrier to hacking activity since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February. Hacktivists, Ukrainian forces and foreigners from around the world who are taking part in the IT army have targeted Russia and its business. DDoS attacks produce mostly action, but researchers have seen ransomware designed to target Russia and look for bugs in the Russian system, which could lead to more sophisticated attacks.

The attack on Russia is in sharp contrast to recent history. Many cybercriminals and ransomware groups have ties to Russia and do not target the nation. Now, it’s opening. “Russia is generally regarded as one of the countries from which cyber-attacks come and go,” said Stefano de Blasi, a cyber-threat intelligence analyst at the security agency Digital Shadows.

At the beginning of the war, DDoS was relentless. The first three months of 2022 saw record levels of DDoS attacks, according to an analysis by Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky. Russia and Ukraine have both used DDoS to try to disrupt each other, but efforts against Russia have become more innovative and protracted.

Ukrainian technology company transformed puzzle game 2048 DDoS has created tools to allow anyone, regardless of technical knowledge, to join the action in an easy way to launch an attack. A message sent to the IT Army Telegram channel on March 24 read, “The more we use attack automation equipment, the stronger our attack will be. Channel operators urge people to use VPNs in disguise of their location and to help them avoid DDoS protections for their targets. In late April, the IT Army launched its own website that lists whether its targets are online or down and contains a technical guide. (IT Army did not respond to a request for comment.)

“We’ve made good strong hits, and a lot of websites don’t work,” said Dimitro Budorin, CEO of Hacken, a Ukrainian cybersecurity startup. When the war broke out, Budorin and his colleagues changed the firm’s anti-DDoS tool, called Disbalancer, so that it could be used to launch DDoS attacks.

Although Kaspersky’s analysis says that as the war progressed, the number of DDoS around the world returned to normal, with attacks lasting more than minutes to hours. The longest lasting 177 hours, over a week, researchers have found. “Attacks continue regardless of their effectiveness,” Kaspersky’s analysis says. (On March 25, the U.S. government added Kaspersky to its list of national security threats; the company said it was “disappointed” by the decision. They believe the decision was not technically based.)

Budorin said the DDoS had been effective in helping Ukrainians contribute to the war effort in ways other than war, and that both sides had improved their offensive and defense. He acknowledges that DDoS may not have a huge impact on the war, though. “It doesn’t have much effect on the ultimate goal, and the ultimate goal is to end the war,” Budorin said.

As Russia launches its full-scale offensive, the country’s hackers seek to disrupt Ukraine’s power systems, install Viper malware, and launch unpredictable disruptive attacks against the Ukrainian government. However, Ukrainian officials now say they have reduced activity. Yuri Schichohol, head of the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection, Ukraine’s cyber security agency, said in a statement on April 20 that “the quality has deteriorated recently because the enemy has not been able to provide as much as it could.” Enemies now spend most of their time defending themselves, as it turns out that their systems are also weak, “said Schichihol.

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