Russia: The Godfather of state hacking?

Land of vodka, caviar and hackers?

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Once again, Russia is dubbed as the mastermind of hacking into other countries’ government bodies. Its latest accuser came from the German authorities, which traced a cyber-attack with “Russian origin” on its network.

Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency told local media on Wednesday that there was “high likelihood” that the Russian government was behind the recent hack of many German foreign and defense ministries.

Maassen identified the cyber-attack as “advanced persistent threat” or (APT). Such cyberattack was considered to be very sophisticated in nature, often needing the concerted effort of a state to commence the operation. During the cyberattack, the hackers targeted the German IVBB computer network which was used to exchange documents labelled “for government use only,” but the spy chief clarified that the network did not carry highly classified documents.

However, the German spy chief cannot be 100% sure that the Russian government was involved the cyber-attack that hacked into network of German foreign and defense ministries on 28 February 2018.

 

Germany, a Hotbed for “state-sponsored” hackers?

Apparently, the hackers in the February cyber-attack were fishing for data related to EU-UK Brexit talks and negotiations of the European Union with Belarus and Ukraine. Thus, the outcome of the hack is hardly the usual for financial gains but portrayed a darker motive of obtaining information, probably for espionage purposes.

German’s intelligence agency reportedly gotten the wind of the cyber-attack by the time when the hackers started to steal some files. Then, the country’s spy agency believed that the group, Turla was behind the attack, but did not present any proof of the group doing. German investigators then linked the group Turla to the Russian government.

Flashback to a few years back, Germany’s lower house of parliament was a victim of cyber-attack in by the alleged APT28, a notorious Russian hacking group which was also believed to be behind the cyber-attack on U.S. Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 U.S. election.

 

Lesson from Estonia

Probably, Russia is no stranger to alleged state-sponsored attack. Its first victim may be the Baltic nation of Estonia back in 2007, where the country was in a political fight with Russia over proposed plan to remove a Soviet war memorial from a park in Tallinn.

The backlash of the moving a 6-foot-tall bronze statue then triggered a cyber-war on Estonia, where the Baltic nation was hit by three weeks of D-DoS (distributed denial of service) attacks.

At that time, Estonia was the one of the most wired nation on the planet, where virtual everything is done online from paying taxes to getting medical reports. Thus, the country’s government services and economic activity came almost to a standstill for one month.

Estonia then pointed the finger at Russia behind the cyberattack, only for Russia to deny the allegation. The full light of 2007 attack only came two years later in 2009, where a Kremlin-backed youth group Nashi, claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

Verdict

Cyber-attack is known for the anonymity and tracking the source of attack is sometime as hard as preventing the attack itself. Nowadays, most countries’ government services are made accessible online, therefore it is almost impossible not to suffer any cyber-attacks. The key here is on prevention, investment in cyber-security and stay to date with cyber-security trend.

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