Preventing Russian cyber attack on Ukraine’s power grid

Hackers have attempted to shut down Ukraine’s power grid. Cybersecurity experts managed to repel the attack. They believe that the Russian hacker group Sandworm is responsible for the attack.

Ukrainian government spokesman Victor Zhora confirmed this to Reuters.

Attack occurred in two waves

According to Zhora, the cyber attack was carried out by a “military hacking team.” Their aim was to paralyze a number of important facilities, possibly to stem the tide of the Russian invasion. The attempt to shut down the power network has failed. The energy supplier and the power network did not suffer any damage. The spokesperson emphasized that the matter is being investigated.

According to Kiev, the cyber attack can be attributed to Sandworm. That is a hacker group that has close ties to the Kremlin. This group launched an attack last month using malware called Cyclops Blink. With this, they tried to steal and delete data and add computers to a global botnet. American and British government agencies managed to repel the attack.

Cybersecurity experts from Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) say the attack came in two waves. First, they penetrated the computer network of a major energy supplier. That already happened in February. After that, the hackers tried to shut down the entire infrastructure this week.

Hackers upgrade malware

Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET worked with the Ukrainian government to repel the attack on the energy grid. The company says the hackers used an improved version of a program that caused power outages in Ukraine in 2016.

The malware was developed in such a way that on the one hand it could turn off the power, and on the other it destroyed data, making it more difficult to get the power back online.

“Sandworms are an apex predator at the top of the food chain in an ecosystem, capable of performing serious operations, but they are not foolproof,” John Hultquist of cybersecurity firm Mandiant told Reuters news agency. “It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the reasons the attacks in Ukraine have been moderated is that defenders there are very aggressive and very good at confronting Russian actors.”

Russia warns of consequences of ‘cyberaggression’

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cyber-attacks have been taking place back and forth. Government bodies and financial institutions, and ultimately the ordinary citizen, are the victims. The Kremlin has strongly denied having anything to do with the attacks. Russia’s foreign ministry warned “anonymous hackers and provocateurs” to stop the “cyber aggression” against the country.

“There can be no doubt that the cyber-aggression unleashed against Russia will have serious consequences for the instigators and the perpetrators. The source of the attacks will be traced. The attackers will inevitably bear responsibility for their actions, in accordance with the requirements of the law,” the ministry said in a statement.

VVD wants to put Russian hackers on European sanctions list

Russian hackers not only cause great damage in Ukraine: according to the VVD, Dutch entrepreneurs are regularly targeted. The Liberal Group, therefore, advocates placing Russian hackers, just like rich Russian oligarchs, on a European sanctions list. “They are common criminals, but digital. We know where they are so we have to make sure that the life of those criminals is made as difficult as possible,” Queeny Rajkowski told RTL Nieuws.

“The moment they can use their bank account that is in Europe, if they even drive one wheel into Europe with their fat Lamborghini, that we still grab them by the scruff of the neck. In order to be able to arrange this, it is important that they are placed on the sanctions list of Europe. That Putin’s clique, including the cybercriminals, will be put on the sanction list,” said the VVD member.

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