Hackers have taken down several Russian media website in the past week and alleged attacks on defense infrastructure in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Among the latest victims, on March 7, was the website of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, one of the largest Russian dailies, the paper of record of the Russian government, and the parent company of RBTH. The website was taken offline by cyber terrorists with its title on Google changed to “pwned by CyberMaidan.”
“There is no doubt that it was hacked. It was done by professionals who first messed around on the site, and then took down the server. They left their mark – Maydanovskaya sotnya (Maidan100),” Rossiyskaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Vladislav Fronin said.
The Kiber sotnya organization, which is suspected in the hacking, posted a denial on its Facebook page stating that while they “stand up to Russian propaganda,” they do not “deserve the credit for hacking the Rossiyskaya Gazeta site.”
Russian anti-virus company Kaspersky Labs, a global leader in cybersecurity, announced that it was investigating the attack at the request of Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
This is the not the first instance of hack attacks on media associated with the Russian government. On Sunday, March 2 the website of TV channel RT was also attacked by cyber terrorists, who posted inflammatory headlines on the homepage.
“They hacked the administrator’s access. Control over the site has been restored,” a spokesperson for the channel said.
On March 6, the hacker group Anonymous posted documents online that allegedly disclosed the dealings of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport and announced a cyberwar against Russia’s military industry.
According to a message from Anonymous posted on Cyberguerilla.org, the hackers are determined to disrupt the infrastructure of the Russian defense industry as much as possible.
Anonymous writes that they have also managed to infect computers from Oboronprom, Sukhoi design bureau, Gazflot, UC Rusal, Veles-Capital, and others with viruses.
Rosoboronexport refused to comment on the hacking.
Vitaly Kamlyuk, a leading antivirus expert at Kaspersky Labs said that the increasing reliance of companies on technology also increased their vulnerability
“It is clear that our dependence on technology, as well as the enormous computing power of today’s computers, have made us potentially vulnerable to attacks on very diverse targets. We have already seen Anonymous act in other countries. And, despite all the measures that have been taken, cyber attacks will most likely continue in the future,” Kamlyuk said.
IlyaSachkov, CEO of Group-IB, which specializes in cybercrimes, thinks that the hack attacks have already crossed the line into actual cyber warfare.
“The war is already underway, and its main goal is to attack public opinion,” Sachkov said. “Informational resources like social networks, blogs and microblogs are used to create turmoil and confusion.”
But not all experts agree. “It is hardly appropriate to call it a cyberwar, in this case it is more likely hacktivism. This is a form of cyber attack used as a political or social protest. It is much easier to attack a government website or the media than to organize a real protest or demonstration. Hacktivists begin to be particularly active during tense political events. That is what we are seeing now, in light of what is happening in Ukraine,” said Kamlyuk.
On Friday, March 14, hackers attacked the websites of Russian public TV channels and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Russian media reported that they suspected hackers in Kiev were responsible for the attack.
This story was first published in Russia Beyond The Headlines, an international source of political, business and cultural news and analysis