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Security advisories — Feb 14, 2022

Cyber Threats due to Russian and Ukrainian Tensions

3 minutes read
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THE THREAT

Over the weekend of February 12-13, tensions between the Russian state and Ukraine increased significantly; there is a high probability that escalating tensions will directly translate into cyber attacks against Ukrainian interests and Ukrainian allied governments.

Russian parliament members have stated that they are planning to recognize the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine as independent states [1] [2]. This recognition would open the door to further incursions by Russian troops in Ukrainian territory. Cyber-attacks targeting Ukrainian interests have already been identified, and the eSentire Threat Intelligence team assesses with high confidence that any further escalation of tensions will be coupled with cyber-attacks against both Ukraine and its allies. Organizations with a presence in, or connection to, Ukraine are strongly advised to review and apply the recommendations listed below.

What we’re doing about it

What you should do about it

Additional information

eSentire continues to track activities associated with Russian APT groups through both publicly available data and information shared by trusted partners. Recent cyber activity attributed to Russian State actors includes website defacement and wiper malware (WhisperGate) attacks. Additionally, the Russian APT group, Gamaredon (aka Primitive Bear, BlueAlpha), was observed targeting a Western government office in the Ukraine. Gamaredon has been attributed to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). It should also be noted that Ukraine has seen a significant increase in fake bomb threats delivered through email; these threats disrupt standard business procedures and force government and police resources to be redirected.

Future cyber-attacks may impact government and private organizations in Ukraine, Ukrainian allied countries, businesses involved in critical infrastructure, military production, and think-tanks. Based on publicly available data, it is likely that Russian threat actors will attempt information theft as well as disruptive attacks. Organizations that are not involved in government or military related industries may still be impacted as Russia may attempt to weaken Ukraine and cause internal unrest and panic through cyber-attacks.

The threat of a hybrid war between Russia and the Ukraine is at an all-time high. Multiple countries are currently urging their citizens to leave the Ukraine and avoid travel to the region. The United States government has removed the majority of U.S. troops from the country, while increasing troop placement throughout near-by European countries [10] [11] [12]. America’s heavy involvement in the region and ongoing negotiations increases the likelihood of espionage related attacks against U.S. government and private US organizations, both around the world and inside of the United States.

CISA List: Vulnerabilities Targeted by Russian APT Groups

References:

[1] https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/01/21/russian-lawmakers-to-decide-on-recognizing-ukraine-separatist-republics-a76109
[2] https://tass.com/politics/1400683
[3] https://www.esentire.com/resources/library/january-2022-threat-intelligence-observations
[4] https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/ncas/alerts/aa22-011a
[5] https://cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/cyber-threat-bulletin-cyber-centre-reminds-canadian-critical-infrastructure-operators
[6] https://therecord.media/hackers-deface-ukrainian-government-websites/
[7] https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2022/01/15/destructive-malware-targeting-ukrainian-organizations/
[8] https://unit42.paloaltonetworks.com/gamaredon-primitive-bear-ukraine-update-2021/
[9] https://www.wsj.com/articles/russians-have-already-started-hybrid-war-with-bomb-threats-cyberattacks-ukraine-says-11644748413
[10] https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/02/12/us-soldiers-ukraine-pulling-out-amid-warnings-of-imminent-russian-invasion.html
[11] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/12/pentagon-orders-departure-of-us-troops-in-ukraine.html
[12] https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2933203/more-us-troops-to-deploy-to-europe-guardsmen-reassigned-out-of-ukraine/

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