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Ukraine energy facility hit by two waves of cyberattacks…

Sandworm succeeded in planting a new version of the Industroyer malware to disrupt ICS infrastructure at multiple levels, but was thwarted from doing serious damage.

Ukraine’s Governmental Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) announced that Russia’s state-backed threat group Sandworm launched two waves of cyberattacks against an unnamed Ukrainian energy facility. The attackers tried to decommission several infrastructural components of the facility that span both IT and operational technology, including high-voltage substations, Windows computers, servers running Linux operating systems, and network equipment.

CERT-UA said that the initial compromise took place no later than February 2022, although it did not specify how the compromise occurred. Disconnection of electrical substations and decommissioning of the company’s infrastructure were scheduled for Friday evening, April 8, 2022, but “the implementation of the malicious plan” was prevented.

The Ukrainian team received help from both Microsoft and ESET in deflecting any significant fallout from the attacks. ESET issued a report presenting its analysis of the attacks, saying its collaboration with CERT-UA resulted in its discovery of a new variant of Industroyer malware, the same malware that the Sandworm group used to take down the power grid in Ukraine in 2016.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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New threat group underscores mounting concerns over Russian cyber…

Crowdstrike says Ember Bear is likely responsible for the wiper attack against Ukrainian networks and that future Russian cyberattacks might target the West.

As fears mount over the prospects of a “cyberwar” initiated by the Russian government, the number of identified Russian threat actors also continues to climb. Last week CrowdStrike publicly revealed a Russia-nexus state-sponsored actor that it tracks as Ember Bear.

CrowdStrike says that Ember Bear (also known as UAC-0056, Lorec53, Lorec Bear, Bleeding Bear, Saint Bear) is likely an intelligence-gathering adversary group that has operated against government and military organizations in eastern Europe since early 2021. The group seems “motivated to weaponize the access and data obtained during their intrusions to support information operations (IO) aimed at creating public mistrust in targeted institutions and degrading government ability to counter Russian cyber operations,” according to CrowdStrike intelligence.

Ember Bear is responsible for using the WhisperGate wiper malware against Ukrainian networks in January before Russia invaded Ukraine. The malware masquerades as ransomware but lacks a payment or data recovery mechanism, masking WhisperGate’s true intent, which is the destruction of data. The WhisperGate campaigns began with website defacements containing threatening messages in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish languages.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

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Russia-linked cyberattacks on Ukraine: A timeline

Cyber incidents are playing a central role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Here’s how events are unfolding along with unanswered questions.

It’s been almost six weeks since Russian troops entered Ukraine and the large-scale “cyberwar” expected to accompany the invasion has not yet materialized. Observers and experts have offered many theories about why Russia hasn’t launched a destructive cyberattack on Ukraine yet despite its full capability to do so.

The reasons range from Russia saving its most dangerous cyberattack until the bitter end to the Kremlin’s fear of a devastating Western response. The most intriguing explanation for why Russia hasn’t seemingly unleashed its cyber arsenal is because we’re already in the middle of what Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, calls a secret cyberwar.

The digital cyberwar is playing out in the shadows, Rid argues, with the more apparent cyberattacks taking place to divert attention from the incidents that we’re not supposed to see. Cyberwar has been playing tricks on us, he argues, emerging in the form of seemingly random attacks and then slipping away into the future.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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Purported massive leak of Russian soldiers’ data could sink…

The publication of personal data on 120,000 Russian soldiers, if accurate, could provide a means to demoralize troops in Ukraine and make them targets for cyber campaigns.

In what security experts say is an unprecedented wartime leak, Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda published what it claims are the personal details of 120,000 Russian service personnel fighting in Ukraine. The nearly 6,000 pages of information, if accurate, contain names, registration numbers, and place of service for well over half of the estimated number of Russian soldiers who have invaded Ukraine.

The data was obtained by a Ukrainian think tank called The Center for Defense Strategies, which was created to monitor defense reforms and develop key government policies affecting Ukraine’s security and defense sector, with a particular focus on building independent analytical capabilities “at the level of the United States and Britain.” The Center is headed by former Ukraine Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk. Its board includes international security expert Alina Frolova, state asset management expert Oleksiy Martsenyuk, former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko, and economic and energy security expert Oleksandr Kharchenko.

High-profile Western security experts also sit on the Center’s board. Among them are the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, former Commander-In-Chief of U.S. European Command General Wesley Clark, former Special Defense Advisor to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry from Britain Phil Jones, and Professor of the Department of War Studies at King’s College Neville Bolt.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash

 

 

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Rash of hacktivism incidents accompany Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Some in the cybersecurity community say actions on behalf of Ukraine help even the odds, while others warn that unauthorized hacking could interfere with government cyber operations.

In keeping with the hybrid nature of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several hacktivist groups and hackers have joined the fight in the embattled nation, including some hacktivists encouraged by the government of Ukraine itself. Although the hacktivists have been waging their version of cyber warfare mostly against Russian organizations, hacktivists sympathetic to Russia are also turning their weapons against Ukraine.

The following are notable hacktivist events that have occurred so far related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • IT Army of Ukraine emerges: Developers in Ukraine are joining an “IT army,” the IT Army of Ukraine, which has assigned them specific challenges. Announced on February 26, the group already has nearly 200,000 users on its main Telegram channel that it uses to hand out assignments and coordinate operations. The group was ostensibly responsible for shutting down the API for Sberbank, one of Russia’s major banks and Kremlin-aligned Belarus’s official information policy site. It’s not clear if the Ukraine government is behind the IT Army of Ukraine, even though Ukrainian officials have endorsed the effort.
  • Anonymous claims credit for website take-downs. Late last week, a Twitter account purporting to represent Anonymous wrote that “The #Anonymous collective has taken down the website of the #Russian propaganda station RT News.” The Russian state-run TV channel RT website said it was a victim of a hacker attack, which it attributed to Anonymous.
  • Cyber Partisans of Belarus claim train hacks. Activist hackers in Belarus called the Cyber Partisans allegedly breached computers that control that country’s trains and brought some to a halt in the cities of Minsk and Orsha and the town of Osipovichi. The hackers purportedly compromised the railway system’s routing and switching devices and rendered them inoperable by encrypting data stored on them.
  • AgainstTheWest targeted Russian interests. Another hacktivist group known as AgainstTheWest claims to have hacked a steady stream of Russian websites and corporations, including Russian Government contractor promen48.ru, Russian Railways, the State University Dubna, and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.
  • The Anon Leaks says it messed with Putin’s yacht information. The Anon Leaks, a group purportedly an offshoot of Anonymous, said it changed the callsign of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s superyacht Graceful on MarineTraffic.com to FCKPTN. The hackers also found a way to alter the yacht’s tracking data, making it look as if it had crashed into Ukraine’s Snake Island and changing its destination to “hell.”
  • Presumed hacktivists hacked Russian EV charging stations. Hackers, presumably activists, hacked electric vehicle charging stations along Russia’s M11 motorway to display anti-Russian messages. The hackers likely gained access through a Ukrainian parts supplier called AutoEnterprise.
  • “Patriotic Russian hackers” helped hit Ukraine websites with DDoS attacks: Last week, some independent Russian hackers, so-called “patriotic Russian hackers,” or vigilantes who operate in a hacktivist-like mode, claim they helped bring down Ukrainian websites during the second round of DDoS attacks that hit the country.
  • Russian media outlets hacked to display anti-Russian messages. The websites of several Russian media outlets were hacked to display anti-Russian messages, with some of the sites going offline. The sites affected were TASS rbc.ru, kommersant.ru, fontanka.ru, and iz.ru of the Izvestia outlet. Some Russian media sources say anonymous was the source of these hacks.
  • Researcher leaked Conti gang’s messages: A Ukrainian security researcher leaked over 60,000 internal messages belonging to the Conti ransomware operation after the gang publicly sided with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. (Conti backpedaled from its robust support of Russia after its Ukrainian affiliates objected). The leaked messages were taken by a Ukrainian security researcher who reportedly had access to Conti’s backend XMPP server from a log server for the Jabber communication system used by the ransomware gang.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

 

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US elections remain vulnerable to attacks, despite security improvements

lead centered=”no”Continued Russian interference, insecure paperless voting processes will sow doubt about the next election./lead

Days away from the Iowa caucuses, and less than 11 months from the general election, voting and election security continues to be a challenge for the U.S political system. Threats to a secure election appear to loom as large today as they did in 2016, when Russian state-backed hackers and social media trolls threw U.S. political campaign and election efforts into chaos, turmoil that has only become clear after the fact.

Certainly, voting security has made great strides since 2016. State and local governments took advantage of a funding boost under the Help America Vote Act to improve their infrastructure and better coordinate among themselves to harden election systems. Congress allocated an additional $425 million as part of a spending compromise that was passed and enacted in late-December, giving election officials even more latitude to make improvements.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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2020 outlook for cybersecurity legislation

lead centered=”no”Here’s a rundown of all the security-related bills working their way through this year’s U.S. Congress, plus some hot security topics likely to be debated./lead

As the partisan divide in Washington widens during this 116th Congress, the prospects of enacting any meaningful legislation that bolsters the nation’s cybersecurity seem, at first blush, dim. Of the nearly 300 pieces of legislation that touch on some aspect of cybersecurity, or more urgently, election security, introduced since the current Congress began last year, only nine have become law. Most were budget-related measures that appropriated or increased funds for federal agencies to spend on cybersecurity or election security as part of the fiscal 2020 spending deal passed in December.

Now, roughly halfway through the current Congress, it’s time to take stock and review where things stand in the legislative arena. A number of bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate and are awaiting further action. They are worth watching in 2020 because they have progressed the farthest and arguably might come closest to gaining some momentum toward passage.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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High-profile departures widen federal government’s security talent shortage

lead centered=”no”Recent key departures–voluntary and forced–might make it harder for government agencies to find the talent needed to fulfill their security missions./lead

Respected and influential government cybersecurity veteran Jeanette Manfra announced this month that she is leaving her position at DHS to join Google as its global director of security and compliance as part of a new security team at Google Cloud. At Google, Manfra, who currently holds the title of Assistant Director for Cybersecurity for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, will spearhead an “Office of the CISO” initiative at Google Cloud to help customers improve their security postures.

Manfra’s departure is just the latest in a string of high-profile departures from the ranks of well-regarded cybersecurity experts from the federal government. Google recruited at least two other prominent government cybersecurity officials to join its ranks. Kate Charlet, who served as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy at the Department of Defense, left in 2017 and is now Director of Data Governance at Google. Daniel Pietro, who was Director for Cybersecurity Policy on the staff of the National Security Council, left his role in 2017 to work at Google as an executive for Public Sector Cloud at Google.

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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The race for quantum-proof cryptography

lead centered=”no”Lawmakers briefed on quantum computing’s threat to encryption and the urgent need for mathematical research/lead

One of the biggest threats to privacy and national security is the ability of the immensely powerful quantum computers to break prevailing methods of encryption almost instantaneously. Once quantum computers become a reality, something that could conceivably happen in the next decade or two, all of the data protected by encrypted systems on the internet will become decrypted and unprotected, accessible to all individuals, organizations or nation-states.

Dr. Jill Pipher, President of the American Mathematical Society, VP for Research, and Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor of Mathematics at Brown University led a briefing last week for lawmakers on Capitol Hill called “No Longer Secure: Cryptography in the Quantum Era” about the threats that quantum computing poses to existing cryptographic systems that support national and economic security. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) began the briefing by saying “we’re acutely aware of the potential advantages and disadvantages that quantum presents. And we’re also very concerned that some of our adversaries and competitors are investing a great deal in quantum computing.”

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.

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CrowdStrike, Ukraine, and the DNC server: Timeline and facts

lead centered=”no”Politicizing cybersecurity only serves to undermine trust in its practices and objectivity, experts fear./lead

President Donald Trump, Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all given credence to what cybersecurity experts and the US intelligence community deride as a baseless conspiracy theory pushed by Russia. That theory posits that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for hacking into the networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Kennedy quickly backtracked from blaming Ukraine for the DNC hack, but nonetheless left wiggle room to return to this contention. After admitting he was “wrong” to imply Ukraine and not Russia hacked the DNC, he went on to say, “There is a lot of evidence, proven and unproven — everyone’s got an opinion — that Ukraine did try to interfere, along with Russia and probably others, in the 2016 election.”

This article appeared in CSO Online. To read the rest of the article please visit here.