Global Cyber Attack Intent on Havoc, Not Extortion
A cyber attack that caused indiscriminate economic damage around the world, including to us here at Live Trading News, was apparently designed to create maximum havoc in Russia’s neighbor and adversary Ukraine.
While the rogue software used in the attack was configured as extortionate “ransomware,” that may have just been a ruse.
“It is clear that this was targeted indiscriminately at Ukrainian businesses, and the Ukrainian government,” the President of the security firm Rendition Infosec and a former member of the US National Security Agency’s elite cyber warfare group, told reporters. “The ‘ransomware’ component is just a smokescreen (and a bad one).”
Although the attack was global in its reach, Ukraine bore the brunt.
Computers were disabled at banks, government agencies, energy companies, supermarkets, railways and telecommunications providers. Many of these organizations said they had recovered by Thursday, although some experts suspected that work was incomplete.
We recovered on Thursday after a week of intense security engineering on our news and financial services sites
“There is still a lot of damage, especially in banks,” said the CEO of the Kiev cybersecurity firm InfoSafe. “ATMs are working (again) but some bank operations are still limited.” He estimated damage in “the millions of dollars, perhaps tens of millions.”
And that is just in Ukraine.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) said the malware hit at least 64 nations, including Russia, Germany and the United States.
I expect that we will see additional fallout from this is the coming days. But we confined it and cleaned it out.
In Ukraine, suspicion immediately fell on hackers affiliated with Vladimir Putin’s regime, although there is no direct, public evidence tying Russia to the attack.
Relations between the 2 nations have been tense since Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in Y 2014. Pro-Russian fighters are still battling the government in Eastern Ukraine.
Experts have blamed pro-Russian hackers for major cyberattacks on the Ukrainian power grid in Y’s 2015 and 2016, assaults that have turned the eastern European nation into the world’s leading cyber warfare testing ground. A disruptive attack on the nation’s voting system ahead of Y 2014 national elections is also attributed to Russia.
The malicious program, which researchers are calling NotPetya, initially appeared to be ransomware. Such malware locks up victims’ files by encrypting them, then holds them hostage while demanding payment, usually in Bitcoin, the hard-to-trace digital currency.
But researchers said the culprits would have been hard-pressed to make money off the scheme. They appear to have relied on a single e-Mail address that was blocked almost immediately and a single Bitcoin account that collected the sum of only $10,000.
Firms including Russia’s anti-virus Kaspersky Lab, said clues in the code indicate that the program’s authors would have been incapable of decrypting the data, further evidence that the ransom demands were a smoke screen.
The timing was intriguing, too.
The attack came the same day as the assassination of a senior Ukrainian military intelligence officer and a day before a national holiday celebrating the new Ukrainian constitution signed after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
“Everything being said so far does point to Russia being a leading candidate for a suspect in this attack,” said the CEO of Dragos Inc. an expert who has studied the attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
What’s most worrisome and reprehensible is that whoever was behind the attack was unconcerned about the indiscriminate, collateral damage it caused within Russia and around the world.
Have a terrific weekend and stay tuned…
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