Hacktivists come to Ukraine’s defense

Groups of pro-Ukrainian hackers are organizing to hit Russia with cyberattacks targeted at Moscow’s command, control systems and government infrastructure.

The Ukrainian defense ministry on Thursday approached cybersecurity experts to set up teams of hackers to defend Ukrainian infrastructure and launch cyberattacks on Russia’s invading forces, one of the experts told Reuters. A post shared on hacker forums called on the country’s cybersecurity community to “get involved in the cyberdefense of our country,” the report said.

The global hacktivist group Anonymous on Thursday evening said in a tweet it was “officially in cyber war against the Russian government” and claimed it had taken down the website of Russia’s state-controlled media network RT. The network said it was able to “repel” the attack.

Another, Belarusian hacktivist group opposing the Russian regime called the Belarusian Cyber Partisans said it had created a “tactical group of Belarus” to work with volunteer hackers to help Ukraine’s military fight back in the cyber domain. “We call on everyone to share this information and contact us if any volunteers want to join our group,” the group’s spokesperson said on Twitter.

The Belarusian Cyber Partisans in January claimed it had encrypted parts of the Belarusian Railway organization in an effort to slow down troop deployment in Belarus as tensions around Ukraine rose. Before that it claimed to have hacked Minsk’s interior ministry. The Belarusian regime is close to Russia’s government and has helped President Vladimir Putin set up the invasion in Ukraine.

It’s unclear if the pro-Ukrainian hacktivists have managed to disrupt Russian infrastructure and communication so far.

Russia’s National Computer Incident Response and Coordination Center warned about cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, Russian media reported Friday. The agency raised the threat level to “critical.”

Several Russian government websites were unreachable for parts of Thursday, including the website of the Ministry of Defense, the Kremlin’s website and the parliamentary Duma’s website, as did the website of the state-owned Sberbank, the country’s biggest bank.

Researchers said they had seen distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on these Russian government websites and on banks. A DDoS attack makes use of large networks of computers known as “botnets” to send an avalanche of traffic to targeted websites, forcing it to go down. Ukrainian government websites were hit with similar attacks twice in the past two weeks, some of which were conducted by Russia’s military intelligence service GRU according to Western security services.

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