Ukraine And Russia Approach Cyber Warfare

Ukraine - Shutterstock - © Mykhaylo Palinchak

Expert suggests Ukraine would not be able to withstand a coordinated Russian attack on its infrastructure

Although many experts are still wary of the term “cyber war”, further digital attacks have increased tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) told TechWeekEurope it was fending off attacks, but could not be more specific. “In a nutshell, we have attacks and try to solve the incidents,” a member of the CERT said.

Just a week ago, the same CERT member said they had not witnessed “huge amounts of attacks” and that “everything is pretty the same, as always”.

Ukraine sites DDoSed

Russian flag © esfera Shutterstock 2012“I know for sure that mobile operators were DDoSed [hit by a distributed denial of service attack] a little bit. But those attacks were simply prevented by security appliances.”

Russia, which has invested heavily in its cyber defence division, has been suspected of carrying out denial of service (DoS) attacks on the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s state-run news agency Ukrinform was hit by a separate DoS attack, officials told Reuters.

“There was a massive DoS-attack on communication channels of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, which was apparently aimed at hindering a response to the challenges faced by our state,” the Security and Defence Council said.

Last week, the Security Service of Ukraine claimed pro-Russian forces stationed in Crimea were targeting the country’s mobile communications using illegally installed equipment at network operator Ukrtelecom. Members of the Verkhovna Rada – the Ukrainian parliament – were targeted. Both Russian and Ukrainian news sites were defaced too.

Elsewhere, a hacker group with apparent sympathies for Ukrainians said it had leaked data from Russian defense contractor Rosoboronexport.

Jeffrey Carr, author of Inside Cyber Warfare and founder of security firm Taia Global, said a source revealed a member of Putin’s Cabinet had authorised “cyber mercenaries” to compromise Wi-Fi and telecommunications services in Ukraine, with the aim of hacking mobile phones.

Carr told TechWeek Ukraine would stand little chance of fending off the most sophisticated of Russian attacks.

“I can tell you that Ukraine wouldn’t be able to defend an attack against its infrastructure should the security services or Ministry of Defence decide to do that,” Carr said.

“The Russian government has invested a lot of money in researching and developing offensive and defensive information warfare (aka cyber warfare) technologies in classified and unclassified programs at at least a dozen institutes and universities.”

What do you know about IT in Russia? Take our quiz!