How A Nation Became Russia's Cyberwar Experiment

In Ukraine, the quintessential cyberwar scenario has come to life. Twice. On separate occasions, invisible saboteurs have turned off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of people. 

Each blackout lasted a matter of hours, only as long as it took for scrambling engineers to manually switch the power on again. But as proofs of concept, the attacks set a new precedent: In Russia’s shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality.

The blackouts weren’t just isolated attacks. They were part of a digital blitzkrieg that has pummeled Ukraine for the past three years, a sustained cyber-¬assault unlike any the world has ever seen. 

A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy. Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralysed organisations’ most basic functions. “You can’t really find a space in Ukraine where there hasn’t been an attack,” says Kenneth Geers, a NATO ambassador who focuses on cyber-security.

In a public statement in December, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, reported that there had been 6,500 cyber-attacks on 36 Ukrainian targets in just the previous two months. International cyber-security analysts have stopped just short of conclusively attributing these attacks to the Kremlin, but Poroshenko didn’t hesitate: Ukraine’s investigations, he said, point to the “direct or indirect involvement of secret services of Russia, which have unleashed a cyber-war against our country.” 

To grasp the significance of these assaults, and, for that matter, to digest much of what’s going on in today’s larger geopolitical disorder, it helps to understand Russia’s uniquely abusive relationship with its largest neighbor to the west. 
Moscow has long regarded Ukraine as both a rightful part of Russia’s empire and an important territorial asset, a strategic buffer between Russia and the powers of NATO, a lucrative pipeline route to Europe, and home to one of Russia’s few accessible warm-water ports. For all those reasons, Moscow has worked for generations to keep Ukraine in the position of a submissive smaller sibling.

But over the past decade and a half, Moscow’s leash on Ukraine has frayed, as popular support in the country has pulled toward NATO and the European Union. In 2004, Ukrainian crowds in orange scarves flooded the streets to protest Moscow’s rigging of the country’s elections; that year, Russian agents allegedly went so far as to poison the surging pro-Western presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. 

A decade later, the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution finally overthrew the country’s Kremlin-¬backed president, Viktor Yanukovych (a leader whose longtime political adviser, Paul Manafort, would go on to run the US presidential campaign of Donald Trump). Russian troops promptly annexed the Crimean Peninsula in the south and invaded the Russian, speaking eastern region known as Donbass. Ukraine has since then been locked in an un-declared war with Russia, one that has displaced nearly 2 million internal refugees and killed close to 10,000 Ukrainians.
“Russia will never accept a sovereign, independent Ukraine. Twenty-¬five years since the Soviet collapse, Russia is still sick with this imperialistic syndrome.”

From the beginning, one of this war’s major fronts has been digital. Ahead of Ukraine’s post-revolution 2014 elections, a pro-Russian group calling itself CyberBerkut, an entity with links to the Kremlin hackers who later breached Democratic targets in America’s 2016 presidential election, rigged the website of the country’s Central Election Commission to announce ultra-right presidential candidate Dmytro Yarosh as the winner. 

Administrators detected the tampering less than an hour before the election results were set to be declared. And that attack was just a prelude to Russia’s most ambitious experiment in digital war, the barrage of cyberattacks that began to accelerate in the fall of 2015 and hasn’t ceased since. 

Yushchenko, who ended up serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010, believes that Russia’s tactics, online and off, have one single aim: “to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, to make its government look incompetent and vulnerable.” 
He lumps the blackouts and other cyber-attacks together with the Russian disinformation flooding Ukraine’s media, the terroristic campaigns in the east of the country, and his own poisoning years ago, all under-handed moves aimed at painting Ukraine as a broken nation. “Russia will never accept Ukraine being a sovereign and independent country,” says Yushchenko, whose face still bears traces of the scars caused by dioxin toxicity. “Twenty-¬five years since the Soviet collapse, Russia is still sick with this imperialistic syndrome.”

But many global cybersecurity analysts have a much larger theory about the endgame of Ukraine’s hacking epidemic: They believe Russia is using the country as a cyberwar testing ground, a laboratory for perfecting new forms of global online combat. 

Wired:       Henry Jackson School of Intl. Studies:         CBS

You Might Aslo Read:

Russian Hackers Sow Disinformation Via Leaks:

Russian General Brags About Cyberwar Successes:

How A Cyber Attack Transformed Estonia:

Power Companies Cyber ‘Nightmare’:

 

« WannaCry Returns To Attack Honda
Petya Cyber Attack Update »

CyberSecurity Jobsite
Perimeter 81

Directory of Suppliers

NordLayer

NordLayer

NordLayer is an adaptive network access security solution for modern businesses — from the world’s most trusted cybersecurity brand, Nord Security. 

North Infosec Testing (North IT)

North Infosec Testing (North IT)

North IT (North Infosec Testing) are an award-winning provider of web, software, and application penetration testing.

BackupVault

BackupVault

BackupVault is a leading provider of automatic cloud backup and critical data protection against ransomware, insider attacks and hackers for businesses and organisations worldwide.

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity, Inc.

Resecurity is a cybersecurity company that delivers a unified platform for endpoint protection, risk management, and cyber threat intelligence.

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO Technology

XYPRO is the market leader in HPE Non-Stop Security, Risk Management and Compliance.

IT GRC Forum

IT GRC Forum

The IT GRC Forum is an online resource and networking platform for the Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC) community

Endace

Endace

Endace is a leader in network visibility, network recording and packet capture solutions for security, network and application performance monitoring.

ISF Annual World Congress

ISF Annual World Congress

ISF Annual World Congress, our flagship global event, offers attendees an opportunity to discuss and find solutions to current security challenges.

LogicManager

LogicManager

LogicManager offer a complete set of IT governance, risk and compliance software solutions and advisory services.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - Netherlands

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - Netherlands

NCSC Netherlands coordinates enhancing the cyber resilience of the Netherlands in the digital domain.

Conceptivity

Conceptivity

Conceptivity provide risk management solutions in the areas of Supply Chain Security, Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection.

CyberTrap

CyberTrap

CyberTrap is an advanced highly-interactive deception technology allowing real-time analysis and control of security breaches.

ObjectSecurity

ObjectSecurity

ObjectSecurity is a leader in authorization policy automation. With OpenPMF, you can manage application security policies for access control and auditing.

Level Effect

Level Effect

Level Effect is developing new capabilities to bring a unique perspective on proactive network defense and advanced security analytics.

Scout Ventures

Scout Ventures

Scout Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm that is making the world a better, safer place by cultivating standout frontier technologies.

Cyber Risk Institute (CRI)

Cyber Risk Institute (CRI)

CRI is a not-for-profit coalition of financial institutions and trade associations working to protect the global economy by enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency through standardization.

Etonwood

Etonwood

Etonwood specialises in infrastructure and vendor technology recruitment in areas including cloud platforms, cyber security and service management.

Terra Quantum

Terra Quantum

Terra Quantum is a deep tech pioneer, developing revolutionary quantum applications to shape the technology of the future.

Concorde Technology Group

Concorde Technology Group

Concorde Technology Group is one of the UK’s leading IT support and services providers, delivering cost-effective and innovative IT solutions to businesses across the country.

AArete

AArete

AArete is a global management and technology consulting firm specializing in strategic profitability improvement, digital transformation, and advisory services.

FTx Identity

FTx Identity

FTx Identity is the world's most advanced age verification technology (AVT) and identity management system.