Cyber Attacks On Ukraine Step Up The Pressure

As the war in Ukraine continues, the state sponsored hacker groups aligned with Russia and Belarus are continuing their cyber offensive against Ukraine with malicious cyber attacks and campaigns spreading disinformation, a new Report from Mandiant says. 

According to Mandiant, many of disinformation narratives they observed were aimed at demoralising Ukrainians and provoking internal unrest - dividing Ukraine from its allies and bolstering perceptions of Russia.

Some of the lies have targeted Russian domestic audiences, emphasising the  Russian government's desire to sell the war to its own citizens

So far, Russian, pro-Russian, and Belarusian cyber attackers have employed the most comprehensive array of methods to achieve "tactical and strategic objectives, directly linked to the conflict itself," according to Mandiant. “The recent phase of Russian aggression toward Ukraine, manifested by Russia’s full-scale invasion, has flooded the information environment with disinformation promoted by a full spectrum of actors.” 

The impact may be felt more broadly as hackers working for other countries, including China and Iran, are attempting to get involved 

"While these operations have presented an outsized threat to Ukraine, they have also threatened the US and other Western countries," Mandiant's researchers say. "As a result, we anticipate that such operations, including those involving cyber threat activity and potentially other disruptive and destructive attacks, will continue as the conflict progresses."

Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine started, in January, the country and its government's websites were already under attack by Russian hackers.

Russia invaded on February 24th and a day before the Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Security Service, and various banks, went down because of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.  "Concerted information operations have proliferated, ranging from cyber-enabled information operations, including those that coincided with disruptive and destructive cyber threat activity, to campaigns leveraging coordinated and inauthentic networks of accounts to promote fabricated content and desired narratives across various social media platforms, websites, and forums," the Mandiant researchers say. 

Mandiant  say that most current activity is "disruptive and destructive" and includes the deployment of wiper malware. 

Malware is not the only activity of concern. In March, hackers known as Secondary Infektion  spread a fake message claiming that Ukraine had surrendered through the Ukraine 24 website going so far as to generate a fake artificial intelligence (AI) model of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy delivering the message. While this group continues to promote fake stories, Ghostwriter malware has also been used. In February, the Computer Emergency Response Team for Ukraine (CERT-UA) warned that the group, also tracked as UNC1151, thought to be linked with the Belarus government, was responsible for an array of misinformation campaigns, phishing attempts, and assaults against Ukrainian targets. 

A new campaign discovered by Mandiant is tied to Ghostwriter and is spreading false narratives about refugees, while other groups are promoting a misinformation campaign aimed at an "aggressive defense of Russian strategic interests," according to the researchers. These activities appear to overlap with Ghostwriter, suggesting there may be a collaboration between the teams.

These fake narratives are being spread to try and damage relations between Ukraine and Poland which  portray Ukrainian refugees as a burden. The Russian threat group known as APT28, or Fancy Bear, continues to post content on Telegram channels related to the conflict, focusing on "weakening Ukrainians' confidence in their government and its response to the invasion."

Mandiant:     The Cyberwire:     Cybersecurity-Help:     Infosec Today:     ZDNet:  

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