Ukraine is already suffering from a relentless and disastrous attack by Russia on its territories. However, over the last few months, warfare has taken on a hybrid form. Amidst the constant firing and bombing, Russian hackers are also continuously penetrating the Ukrainian systems to cripple them digitally. Microsoft has taken a major interest in the cybersecurity systems of the sovereignty of Ukraine. The Russia-Ukraine war is having a devastating impact not only on Ukraine but also on the rest of the world.
According to Microsoft, over 240 major cyber attacks have been carried out by Russian hackers on Ukraine’s cyber systems since the start of the invasion.
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Russians Launch Unrelenting Digital Attacks
It has been found that since Russia invaded Ukraine, six of the Russian state-sponsored cybercriminal groups have carried out 237 destructive cyber attacks against Ukraine. These attacks were in alignment with widespread espionage and intelligence operations by the Russians. The Russian hackers and cybercriminal groups are believed to be employed by government institutions that are assisting in the Russian military’s tactical and strategic objectives.
Threat actors have majorly employed phishing attacks in addition to targeting unpatched vulnerabilities that have largely compromised networks of IT services. These threat actors have been found to make modifications to their malware every time they deploy a new cyber attack. Initially, the threat actors were carrying out mass phishing attacks when the tension started to escalate in 2021. During the mid-year, they started carrying out attacks on supply chain vendors of foreign countries to disrupt foreign relationships. As the militarization of the borders increased substantially, threat actors carried out widespread wiper malware attacks.
On April 6th, Microsoft announced that they had successfully disrupted the attacks of Strontium, a Russian GRU-connected threat actor group.
Cyber Attacks Are Intertwined With Military Operations
Russian state-sponsored cyber attacks are strongly related to the aggressive military operation by the Russians. The threat actors have also been found to target some organizations in the Baltic region and Turkey. In general, it is believed and found that these threat actors are targeting all the NATO countries.
On March 1st, a major broadcasting company in Ukraine suffered a cyber attack. On the very same day, the Russian military was notified to destroy disinformation targets in Ukraine and carried out a missile attack on a TV tower in Kyiv.
The malicious activities of Russian hacker groups have always been found to assist military operations. At the time, when the Russian military captured Mariupol city, several Ukrainian residents reported receiving emails from Russian threat actors about the Ukrainian government abandoning them.
On March 13th, a Russian hacker group breached nuclear facilities in Ukraine and stole crucial data after the Russian military attempted to capture the nuclear power plants where sparking occurred, raising concerns.
It is strongly believed and can be anticipated that with the continuance of the war, cyber attacks will increase regularly. Microsoft has anticipated that Russian-sponsored threat actors will expand their malicious activities and start targeting the countries that are looking to assist Ukraine either militarily or strategically.
Impact of Russian-Ukraine Hybrid Warfare
- As the missiles are continuously damaging the infrastructure of the country, cyber attacks are disrupting the online network systems.
- The cyber attacks have degraded the cyber systems of several government institutions and people’s access to crucial life services and information has been adversely affected.
- Cyber attacks have occurred all over Europe, especially in NATO countries, causing some level of damage to assistance and support.
- 32% of the cyber attacks during the ongoing war have been carried out on Ukrainian government institutions.
- 40% of the cyber attacks have targeted the crucial and important infrastructure of the Ukrainian government and military.
Hybrid Warfare is The Biggest Threat in Future
Russia-Ukraine hybrid warfare is the perfect example of what wars will be like in the future. The countries involved will not only use missiles or weapons to attack but also employ cybercriminal groups or threat actors to carry out disastrous cyber attacks. Microsoft has conducted extensive investigations regarding the cybersecurity situation in Ukraine and established secure communication for consistent support. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Centre discovered wiper malware in various networks and cyber systems in Ukraine in January.
After the discovery of wiper malware, they started their investigation and reporting about the Russians’ hybrid warfare strategy. The company is believed to provide round-the-clock cybersecurity assistance to Ukraine by sharing threat intelligence and deploying technical countermeasures to cyber attacks. Every country must be cautious about its cyber systems to prevent the occurrence of a devastating situation like the one Ukraine is currently going through. Consistent efforts should be made to keep the wall of defense high and strong.