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Russia signaled Tuesday that it’s becoming increasingly aggravated by cyberattacks targeting the country, which have come from numerous directions in response to its unprovoked assault on Ukraine.
In a statement, reported on by outlets including Reuters and the Russian news agency Tass, Russia’s foreign ministry pledged to uncover the sources of the recent “cyber aggression” and hold those sources responsible.
Reuters reported that Russia used the statement to blame the U.S. for leading the campaign, involving hundreds of thousands of cyberattacks per day against Russia. The cyberattacks have come as Vladimir Putin’s forces continue to attack military, government and civilian targets in Ukraine.
The English version of the Tass report quotes the Russian foreign ministry as saying that “no one should have any doubts that the cyber aggression unleashed against Russia will lead to grave consequences for its instigators and perpetrators.”
“The sources of the attacks will be detected, the attackers will inevitably bear responsibility for their deeds, in accordance with the requirements of the law,” the foreign ministry statement said, according to Tass.
Blaming the U.S.
The statement suggests that Ukraine’s cyber forces — trained by the U.S. and “other NATO member states,” according to Russia — have been responsible in part for the cyberattacks, which the statement characterizes as part of a “cyber war.“
The statement also mentions “anonymous hackers and provocateurs, who follow orders of Western coordinators supporting” Ukraine, according to the Tass report.
It was not clear if the use of the word “anonymous” was meant to refer to the Anonymous hactivist group, which has vowed to oppose Russia in cyberspace and has claimed a number of successful cyberattacks against Russian targets.
The statement contends that Russia has been facing a cyberattack campaign “waged by cyber-mercenaries, who have concrete warfare tasks, which often border on open terrorism,” according to Tass.
Ukraine’s IT army initiative, announced by a Ukrainian government official just days after Russia’s invasion, has focused on forcing Russian websites offline using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Assessments of the IT army efforts suggest the initiative has in fact been making an impact against Russia.
U.S. Cyber Command, which is part of the Department of Defense, has also reportedly been working to counter Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine.
Russia’s cyber aggressions
Russia, of course, has been held responsible for a long history of cyberattacks against Ukraine and western nations including the U.S. Ultimately, Russia is among the biggest driving forces for the U.S. cybersecurity industry.
As one prominent example, the 2020 software supply chain attack against SolarWinds, affecting thousands of customers including numerous U.S. federal agencies, was linked by the U.S. to the Russian intelligence agency SVR. And the Russia-backed NotPetya attack in 2017, which targeted Ukraine but impacted western companies as well, remains the costliest cyberattack to date with damages of $10 billion.
More recently, The Washington Post reported last week that U.S. intelligence has attributed a late February cyberattack against European satellite internet services to Russia. And on Monday, Ukraine blamed “the enemy” for a cyberattack against Ukrtelecom, a major mobile service and internet provider, that impacted the service for 15 hours.
Statements by Microsoft and Amazon have also pointed to cyberattacks in Ukraine with humanitarian implications following Russia’s invasion.
Last week, President Joe Biden warned that a wave of new Russian cyberattacks against targets in the U.S. could be getting closer. On March 21, Biden released a statement saying his administration was in possession of “evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.”
That prompted Biden to reiterate previous warnings that “Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners.”
Mike Hamilton, founder and CISO at security firm Critical Insight, told VentureBeat last week that the “army of volunteers” launching cyberattacks against Russia may be providing Russia with a pretext for a retaliatory cyber offensive against the west.
“After Anonymous has gone after pipelines, the Russian space agency, electric vehicle charging stations, broadcast television and unsecured printers, it is credible to claim that this is an aggressive action by the United States and retaliation may be under consideration,” Hamilton said in comments provided via email last week.
For more than a month now, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been calling on businesses and government agencies to put “shields up” in the U.S.