In a report on Wednesday, Microsoft revealed a piece of information which the world didn’t know of previously. A revelation which is actively a part of Ukraine vs Russia’s ongoing conflicts. By the looks of it, Russia seems to be up to no good as usual by attacking Ukraine’s cyberspace to weaken them even more day by day.
According to Microsoft, Russian hackers, presumably employed by the Russian government took part in cyber attacking Ukraine. They carried out multiple operations which displayed online propaganda campaigns and supported Moscow’s military attacks openly.
There have been reports of intrusions apparently. A fact which has not been disclosed previously. There are heavy suspicions that hacking might’ve played a bigger role in the Ukraine-Russia conflict than what has been public knowledge.
Based on Microsoft’s theories, the attack on Ukraine was a long-overdue plan which has been in the works one year prior to February 24th, the day Ukraine was invaded by Russia this year. Russian President Putin has always made his intentions pretty clear about wanting to get his hands on Ukraine.
So, it comes as no surprise that Russia’s digital onslaught on Ukraine began a year ago. Researchers say that was also the time when Russia laid down the groundwork for various military missions which were to follow the battlefield that is Ukraine.
Just between February 23rd and April 8th, Microsoft observed a total of 37 Russian cyberattacks of destructive nature which were carried out within Ukraine.
Despite that, the Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately report any comments.
Experts say their findings emphasized how far technological warfare has come. Russia has combined digital and kinetic strikes to deliver more of an impact on Ukraine and attempts to weaken it on all fronts.
Thomas Rid, a professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University stated:
“Russian generals and spies have tried to make cyber attacks part of their war effort while they’ve struggled on the battlefield.”
Microsoft stated in its report that Russia’s hacking and military operations have been working as a “tandem against a shared target set”.
The tech company also said they’re unable to decipher how the government decided to work hand-in-hand with hackers. Either the collaboration was a mutual decision to rile up the other country even more or the two parties had mutual goals in mind.
Microsoft went as far as to publish a timeline. It depicted that on March 1st when a Russian missile was aimed at Kyiv’s TV tower, the same day media companies in Kyiv became a victim of cyberespionage and destructive hacks.
The tech company presented another case where their cybersecurity research team noticed “suspected Russian actors” wandering around Ukrainian critical infrastructure in northeast Sumy. This sighting took place two weeks before there was a shortage of electricity within the area on March 3rd.
Microsft further reported that a day later, on March 4th, hackers managed to get into the government network in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia. A few days later, multiple missiles blew up the Havryshivka Vinnytsia International Airport.
Victor Zhora, a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official said, there have been continuous Russian cyberattacks on energy grid operators and local telecom companies.
“I believe that they can organize more attacks on these sectors,” Zhora told reporters. “We shouldn’t underestimate Russian hackers but we probably should not over-estimate their potential.”
Zhora also thanked Microsoft, the US government and various other European allies for providing cybersecurity support during these distressing times.
Ever since the war started, analysts and academics have observed Russia has been unusually less active in the cyber world against Ukraine than expected. However, Microsoft’s report reveals something else entirely. It says there has been a flurry of malicious cyber activity, however, the impact in most cases has been either not so evident or unclear.
Just a fortnight ago, the US government publicly exposed a cyberweapon called Pipedream. It has the potential to damage industrial control systems. Although the tool hasn’t been attributed to Russia, many believe it to be destructive and find it suspicious how the expose also coincides with the Ukraine-Russia conflict.