Wednesday, January 26, 2022

No light, no heat, no money – this is life in Ukraine during the cyber war

A general view is shown at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine on March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File photo

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Jan 14 (Reuters) – Hackers who hacked and disrupted access to several Ukrainian government websites on Friday could set the stage for more serious cyber attacks that will disrupt the lives of ordinary Ukrainians, experts said.

“As tensions escalate, we can expect more aggressive cyber activity in Ukraine and potentially elsewhere,” said John Haltquist, an intelligence analyst at the US cyber security company Mandient, potentially calling for “catastrophic attacks that could destroy critical infrastructure.” target.”

“Organizations need to start preparing,” Hultquist said.

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Infiltration by hackers on hospitals, power utility companies and the financial system was rare until recently. But organized cybercriminals, many of them living in Russia, have aggressively chased institutions over the past two years with ransomware, freezing data and the computerized equipment needed to care for hospital patients.

Patients have died in those extortion attacks, in some cases, according to litigation, media reports and medical professionals.

Friday’s attack on Ukrainian websites included warnings to “fear and expect the worst” at a time when Russia has gathered nearly 100,000 troops near Ukraine, raising fears in the West that it might launch an invasion. is considering. Moscow denies it intends to invade.

Russia has repeatedly denied hacking allegations leveled by Ukraine and other countries over the years. While a suspect in the new web extortion, Russia has not been directly accused by Ukraine.

In 2014, Russian troops entered Crimea’s Black Sea peninsula and separated it from Ukraine. If Russia strikes again, there will be more cyberattacks, as predicted by former CrowdStrike cyber security executive Dmitry Alperovich.

Alperovich said they would most likely be disruptive, not lethal. “It will be a sideshow. The main show will be on the ground.”

Ukraine has already bore the brunt of some of the biggest hacks on infrastructure ever.

In December 2015, the first cyberattack of its kind cut off the lights of 225,000 people in western Ukraine, hackers also sabotaged power distribution equipment, complicating efforts to restore power.

Average temperatures during winter in Ukraine are very low and the heat is potentially fatal. The 2015 attack reportedly resulted in six-hour outages in some towns.

Officials said hackers targeted Ukrainian government institutions about 6,500 times in the last two months of 2016. The government said the cyber attack shows that Russian security services are waging a cyber war against Ukraine.

The attack on the state treasury brought its system to a halt for several days, meaning that state employees and pensioners were unable to receive their salaries or payments on time.

The attack on Ukraine’s power grid is regarded by experts as the first example of hackers shutting down vital energy systems supplying heat and light to millions of homes.

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Reporting by Christopher Byng and Joseph Maine; Editing by Chris Sanders and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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