Pirate attacks on Russia attract attention but cause little damage

Two days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a group of hackers managed to gain access to several Russian public television channels and broadcast anti-war videos.

But the attack ended after a few minutes and regular programming resumed.

This type of short-lived hacking operation has been repeated several times in Russia in recent weeks in apparent retaliation for the Kremlin’s decision to attack Ukraine.

But despite the scale of this global cyber offensive, IT experts told The Moscow Times that its successes were short-lived and caused little real political or economic damage.

The online offensive against Russia appears to have been led by shadowy hacking groups, and it has included data leaks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, anti-war messages on websites owned by the state and even the manufacture of printers in Russia. spit anti-war messages.

“[Worldwide hacking collective] Anonymous pursues a ‘1,000 pinprick’ policy with its hacker attacks,” said Dennis-Kenji Kipker, a computer security expert at the University of Bremen. “While these actions are regularly celebrated as successes, the sustainability of cyberattacks is questionable.”

One of the most common forms of online intrusion has been the hacking of major public entities and subsequent data dumps.

Hackers Anonymous announcement last month that they had managed to access almost a million emails from VGTRKa powerful state-run media company that operates TV channels including Rossia 24. They also leaked the personal data of 120,000 Russian servicemen apparently fighting in Ukraine as well as data from the Ministry of Culture, central bank and communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

Some of the emails from the leaked VGTRK database revealed details about the media company’s inner workings, according to Aric Toler, a researcher at investigative media Bellingcat.

Toler reported how VGTRK closely monitors foreign media coverage of its own broadcasts, and how Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the powerful Security Council, send physical telegrams to VGTRK on formal occasions.

But while interesting to researchers, the emails have yet to reveal anything politically significant. And the size of the VGTRK leak means it will likely take several months for reporters and investigators to sift through all the data.

In addition, it is often difficult to know if the leaks are real.

Despite anonymous affirming a successful attack on the Russian Central Bank on March 24, the Bank refuse his data had been compromised.

Only 10% of data breaches claimed by the Anonymous group are likely to be new, according to Igor Bederov, the head of cybersecurity firm Internet Rozysk.

Another popular tactic has been DDoS attacks on Russian websites, causing shutdowns or delays. DDoS attacks quadrupled last month, state news agency TASS says reported.

“More and more users have been involved in these DDoS attacks,” Bederov said. “On the one hand, it was a systematic effort, but on the other hand, it was very low quality attacks. Their main strength is in the number of users participating in them.

In most cases, these attacks are easily stopped by competent computer security teams. However, many succeeded in part because of the incompetence of developers who failed to properly protect their websites, according to Bederov.

In other cyber intrusions, Russian web services were flooded with anti-war advertisements. Two days after the invasion began, viewers of Ivi, a Russian streaming service, saw images of war-damaged Ukrainian towns and crying children instead of their favorite sitcoms.

The online assault has not gone unnoticed by Russian authorities.

The online assault has not gone unnoticed by Russian authorities.

“The scale of cyberattacks is unprecedented, up to hundreds of thousands per week,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. mentioned earlier this month. “Russia has many reasons to blame Western countries for funding cybercriminals.”

However, identifying the culprits is not always straightforward.

One of the perpetrators is likely the hacking group Anonymous, which has repeatedly claimed responsibility.

“Russia may be using bombs to drop innocents, but Anonymous is using lasers to kill Russian government websites,” tweeted one of the hackivist movement’s accounts two days after the war broke out.

“Anonymous is behind the attacks,” said Alexander Lyamin, founder of cybersecurity firm Qrator Labs. “Even the geographical location of the servers used to organize the attacks confirms this.”

But other experts are not convinced.

“It is certain that Anonymous will be responsible for some of the incidents,” said expert Kipker. “But since anyone can theoretically speak for Anonymous, there will just as certainly be free riders who simply claim to create political uncertainty.”

Some have also pointed to a “Ukrainian computer army” that the government in kyiv installation shortly after the start of the Russian invasion.

Despite their ineffectiveness, the wave of cyberattacks against Russia marks a shift in hacker tactics, analysts say.

“Hackers’ actions are dangerous because ultimately what we’re seeing here is private interference in major global political issues,” Kipker said.

Russia news

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