The war in Ukraine is also being fought in cyberspace

The war in Ukraine has officially begun with the military operation announced by Putin this morning. A full-fledged invasion condemned by the international community. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has called on Russia to back down and stop an attack with “devastating” consequences not only for Ukraine, but “tragic” for Russia and a problem for the recovery of the global economy after the crisis caused by the pandemic. « This war does not make any sense «, he has stressed.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been more forceful: «I strongly condemn Russia’s reckless and unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which puts countless civilian lives at risk«. The secretary of the Alliance has pointed out that «once again, despite our repeated warnings and our tireless efforts to exercise diplomacy, Russia has chosen the path of aggression against a sovereign and independent country «.

Clearly, Russia’s aggression is a serious violation of international law. A great threat to the security of the planet because Putin has extended the bombing to areas of Lithuania (and thinks of others as well) and this one is a full member of NATO. The consequences for the world can be dire. The disaster of the two world wars is still on the minds of many and some analysts consider the Russian aggression to be the most worrying military operation of this century.

The worst thing is the humanitarian situation, there are already dead citizens in Ukraine and the exodus of the population to other areas of Europe number in the thousands. Stock markets are falling sharply around the planet and the price of oil and gas threatens the global economy and a recovery that was beginning to appear as we overcome the pandemic.

The war in Ukraine, also in cyberspace

In the 21st century, wars are not only fought on the ground and cyberspace is another vital area. Here Russia has elements of attack and defense that are cited among the planetary elite. Coinciding with the physical bombardments, government agencies and banks in Ukraine this morning were hit with DDoS attacks that took websites offline.

Shortly thereafter, cybersecurity firms Symantec and ESET revealed a new destructive ‘data cleaning’ malware that is also being used in cyberattacks against organizations in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia. And it’s not the first. This malware is the second of its kind detected this year. Specifically, the ‘WhisperGate’ discovered by Microsoft and posing as a ransomware attack.

Like that, it corrupts files and erases the Master Boost Record from the device, making it impossible to start Windows or access files. The type of tool used clearly shows that it has been prepared by Russian state-sponsored cybercriminals and its code dates back to 2017 when attacks targeted thousands of Ukrainian companies with NotPetya ransomware. A malware that was not looking for money or ransom, but to do damage to critical targets.

Last year, the US indicted Russian GRU hackers believed to be part of the elite Russian hacking group known as “Sandworm” and responsible for the NotPetya attacks.

As for DDoS, they are part of a third wave of attacks that have affected various banking and government institutions in Ukraine. You already know that they are denial of service attacks that attack Internet infrastructure with a massive bombardment. This has taken out of play the online portals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet of Ministers, the portal of the country’s parliament and several banks.

And so that nothing was missing. Cybercriminals swarming the dark web are seeking to capitalize on ongoing political tensions by advertising databases and web accesses containing information on Ukrainian citizens and critical infrastructure entities with the « hope for big profits«, according to a report published by Accenture this week.

While we wait for sanity to prevail, the consequences of the war in Ukraine are unpredictable. In the physical world and also in cyberspace.