Ukraine attacks cause ripples in the Cybersecurity sector

cybersecurity world

We look at the threat to cybersecurity following the attacks in Ukraine, the warnings provided by governing officials, and the response team created.

During the chaos surrounding the deployment of troops into the Ukraine, ordered by Putin, reports came in of the string of cyberattacks taking place over the Ukraine. This began on Tuesday, February 22nd, as Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Services websites went down apparently due to cyberattacks.

The banks were also affected, being hit with multiple attacks as part of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) scheme that the US and UK governments suggested was carried out by Russian military hackers. Though Putin has openly denied any involvement, Privatbank and Oshadbank came under attack just prior to Russian troops beginning to march into Ukraine. This seems like too much of a ‘coincidence’ to not be a kind of virtual attack used by Russia, though there is no confirmed proof of origin.

The EU and Ukraine have openly blamed the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate for these attacks. This is primarily due to the history of hybrid warfare, such as the 2015/ 2016 malware attacks. During this, thousands of people in multiple cities in Ukraine experienced power cuts as hackers temporarily shut off electricity substations.

Then there were the hugely disruptive NotPetya wiper attacks in 2017; the malware initially aimed at Ukraine then spread globally. Wiper malware destroys data on infected machines and in these attacks caused billions of dollars of damage to computer systems across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Russian officials in Moscow denied ties to all of these attacks calling those who blame them “Russophobic.”

Interestingly during this week’s wave of attacks, wiper malware has been found as one of the culprits.  The experts from Symantec and ESET pointed out that the malicious software has a timestamp of creation dated 28 December 2021, suggesting that this was planted, and the attack may have been premeditated since then.

A wave of threatening SMS messages have also been received by Ukrainian soldiers, which have the apparent aim to lower morale in the country. A new form of cyber psychological warfare, not seen before. This sudden increase in sporadic cyber-attacks across the region reflects the ways technology has affected the way the world works.

In response to these threats, the EU has formed a cyber rapid-response team (CRRT) made up of between 8 to 12 experts in cybersecurity from Lithuania, Croatia, Poland, Estonia, Romania, and the Netherlands. They have committed themselves to defend Ukraine remotely and on-site from any further attacks. An official from CRRT said the team was “composed of different cyber-expertise, such as incident response, forensics, vulnerability assessment, to be able to react to a variety of scenarios.”

Though the UK has not sent troops presently, an official warning sent out by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) calls for organizations to “bolster their online defenses.” The NCSC is part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and has advised that businesses follow their step-by-step response actions guide.

Businesses worldwide should take the warning and prepare for some form of malware or ransomware backlash during this time. Many companies are, in fact, already offering assistance. An example of this is Atlas VPN which has just released its guide on avoiding DDoS attacks while also offering free premium VPN access to any journalists covering the news in Ukraine presently. They stated, “We stand for freedom online and beyond; we wish to help journalists who risk their safety to provide the most accurate information to the public.”

Regardless of who is to blame for the attacks, Businesses need to do a security check as soon as possible to protect from initial malware invasion. If it is already too late and access has been made directly or through a third-party gateway, an appropriate security repair response is vital!

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Erin Laurenson

Multimedia Content Producer for TBTech

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