Cyber warfare is increasingly becoming a popular front for countries to deal with various geo-political and economic tensions, as the damage which can be induced through this means is much larger than just physical annihilation. Ransomware attacks in exchange for millions in ransom as well as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have become common during heightened geopolitical tension between countries.
As Russia declared war against Ukraine, the latter was hit by a series of data wiping DDoS hacks, now known as "Wiper" attacks. Slovakia-based cyber security firm Eset, stated on Twitter, saying, "The data wiping program was present on hundreds of devices in the country, an attack it said had presumably been in the works for months."
According to a BBC report, an identical attack took a number of websites in Ukraine offline on February 14. The UK and the US blamed Russian hackers for this under explicit orders from the Kremlin. "We believe the Russian government is responsible for widespread cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks," said Anne Neuberger, the White House's chief cyber official, at a Press meet. At the same time as the U.S. announcement, authorities in Britain said that the Russian Intelligence was "almost certainly involved" in the DDoS attack, which flooded Ukrainian websites with an overwhelming amount of data, leading them to go offline.
However, Moscow declined being involved - and no official accountability has been levelled at Russia for the latest hacks. In January, the Ukrainian government had blamed Russia for being behind another DDoS wave and a less sophisticated wave of wiper attacks, the BBC report stated. Some impacted websites altered Ukrainians with a message to "get ready for the worst."
"The superpowers of the world have heavily invested in cyber warfare since they see it as the new frontier of war, other than land, sea or air. The hacks are primarily targeted at the adversary's economy, national reserves or security database. Half the war is won if these are compromised," says Bivas Chatterjee, Special Public Prosecutor, Cyber Law, High Court at Calcutta.
Ransomware Attacks On The Rise
According to the latest reports by Chainalysis, an analytics company, 74 per cent of money amassed by ransomware attacks by hackers was directly connected to Russia-linked hackers. However, according to media reports, Russia has maintained the stance that it is not harbouring cybercriminals.
In a particular instance where the two largest banks in Ukraine were hacked, a Forbes report said that the US largely blamed Russia for this cyberattack.
The research by Chainalysis further suggests that many cyber-criminal groups work in Russia or Russian-allied countries. However, it is difficult to accurately examine where the big gangs involved in these ransomware attacks originate.
On Tuesday, February 22, the EU declared that a cyber rapid-response team (CRRT) was being deployed across Europe after Ukraine sought help to prevent continuous attacks on the cyber systems of its administration.