Hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, images of smoke billowing from buildings, citizens panicking and leaving cities shocked the world.
While the fight on ground is sending shivers down the world’s spine, Russia has also been indulging in cyber attacks.
Cyber attacks are wreaking havoc on computer systems far beyond the country’s borders.
Russia has been the world’s most active nation state hacker for the past many years. Reports suggest the country has developed formidable cyber capabilities.
According to Microsoft’s Digital Defense Report, 58 per cent of all known nation-state cyber attacks are done by Russia.
RUSSIA ATTACKING UKRAINE’S BANKS, GOVT WEBSITES
For the past few days, Ukraine’s banks and government websites have been hacked multiple times. Experts believe the attacks were orchestrated by Russia in order to cripple Ukraine’s banking system.
Cyber experts told India Today that reports suggest Russia used the ‘Wiper’ malware to incapacitate Ukraine. Wiper malware has the ability to destroy all the data stored in a system as well as make it impossible to recover it.
Cyber experts believe cyber warfare is the new established form of warfare which will now determine who will rule the new world.
Pavithran Rajan, Information Warfare Expert told India Today, “Cyber warfare is now an established form of warfare and in the escalation matrix of hostilities, it is an expected form of attack on the adversary. Most scholars have accepted cyber as the fifth domain after land, sea, air and space. So it’s the newest form of warfare, but not new anymore.”
Investigations have brought to the fore an astonishing fact – some hacking tools have been developed recently, for attacking Ukraine’s cyber resources. The speed of attacks coupled with the fact that new technology is at play, looks like Ukraine might have a difficult time preventing cyber-attacks and securing its data.
WIPER MALWARE:RUSSIA WANTING TO WIPE UKRAINE’S CRUCIAL DATA
The malware in question- Wiper– does not infect with the purpose of stealing money or getting ransom. The idea behind the Wiper attack is to destroy the entire system in question. In a war-like situation, Wiper is the weapon of choice, because if used in a targeted manner, it can wipe out crucial data of any country.
Wiper is capable of attacking the system’s recovery tools, leaving the organisation severely handicapped.
As per reports, official websites of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine along with ministries of education, infrastructure, foreign affairs, among others were found to be shut down.
Speaking to India Today, Vikram Thakur of cybersecurity firm Symantec, “We inspected the attacks and we have come to the conclusion that the attacks were widely spread. The hackers wanted to wipe all data and disable government websites.”
Ukraine said it has also been targeted by a large-scale cyber attack on its government website and banks.
Residents had complained to Ukraine’s Cyber Police about receiving text messages saying that ATMs in the country did not work.
The fear in the world is the use of nuclear weapons.
Pavithran Rajan, Information Warfare Expert told India Today, “Among nuclear powers, kinetic war beyond a certain threshold can lead to escalation to nuclear weapons. In such a scenario, cyber warfare to disrupt the critical information infrastructure and coerce the opponent will become increasingly the norm. Even nuclear weapons rely on robust command and control mechanisms. Targeting these by cyber warfare can have strategic implications and will decide the winner.”
UKRAINE, OTHERS NEED TO STRENGTHEN THEIR CYBER WARFARE CAPACITIES
What Russia did was for everyone to see and the kind of cyber attacks that have been growing point towards the fact that dangerous viruses like Wiper penetrate into the system due to human error or lack of cyber hygiene. Security experts advise against downloading suspect files, or any software that is lined up for an update outside of its usual schedule.
Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, wrote on Telegram,”Another mass DDoS (Distributed denial of service) attack on our state has begun.”
Anirudh Suri, an author said, “Cyberattacks are now a key component of hybrid war. Earlier, these meant hacking or defacing of official websites. However, in recent years, cyber-offense capabilities have improved significantly and critical infrastructure such as power grids, dams, industries, nuclear facilities and telecommunications infrastructure has become vulnerable due to its dependence on cyber-connectivity.”
India needs to strengthen its firewall systems so that any suspect activity on the network can be detected and prevented at the earliest.