Hundreds of Ukrainian government websites were hit by malicious data-wiping software a day after the Russian invasion. Suspicion fell on the Kremlin as it has repeatedly been accused of hacks against Ukraine and other countries. As Ukraine vows to fight off Russia's digital intrusions, cyberwarfare, and its role in geopolitical conflicts, is back in the spotlight.
The attention to cyber warfare is crucial because Ukraine has been among the three most affected countries by Russian cyber activity in the past year, according to the Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Between 2017 and 2019, Ukraine suffered at least nine cyber attacks from Russia.
What is cyberwarfare?
Cyberwarfare refers to the use of technology to deliberately attack information systems of nations or organisations for strategic or military purposes. Cyberwarfare is planned with an aim to "weaken, disrupt or destroy" another nation, according to a report by Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Tools of cyber warfare include viruses, phishing, computer worms and malware that destroy critical infrastructures, ransomware for data hostage, propaganda or disinformation campaigns, theft of private data from government websites, etc.
Between 2009 and 2018, there has been a 440 per cent increase in the number of cyberwarfare attacks globally and as much as 30 per cent of them originated in Russia or China, a Privacy Affair report said.
Russian attackers have targeted 19 countries in 75 cyberwarfare incidents between 2009 and 2019. Even though the USA was Russia’s main target, Russian cyber attackers frequently attempted to access eight European Union countries, the German Parliament, and Ukraine.
Countries most affected by cyberwarfare
Between July 2020 to June 2021, the US and Ukraine have been the most targeted nations by state-backed cyber attacks, according to Microsoft Digital Defense Report released in October 2021. It also notes that such incidents have increased in frequency with a rise in geopolitical tensions between nations.
Countries conducting most cyber attacks
Between July 2020 to June 2021, Russia has been the source of most state-sponsored cyber attacks, as per the report. Over 50 per cent of cyber attacks between that period was originated from Russia while North Korea was behind 23 per cent of them.
While these attacks have a low success rate but the high number of attempts ensure that some of their goals are served.
Ukraine is among the three most affected countries by Russian cyber activity in the past year, according to the Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Between 2017 and 2019, Ukraine has suffered at least nine cyber attacks from Russia.
Amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, cyber attacks against Ukrainian government websites and affiliated organisations added to the confusion of Russia's military assault on February 24.
In December 2015, the country’s power grid was affected by Russian attackers and shut down electricity supplies to residents of Kyiv. Even in 2014, the Russian government allegedly conducted a DDoS attack on Ukraine’s internet and pro-Russian rebels took control of Crimea.
The number of Ukrainian customers impacted by cyberattacks has raised to over 1,200 this year from six last fiscal year due to Russia-based NOBELIUM. This Russian attacker heavily targeted the Ukrainian government’s efforts to gather support against a build-up of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.
A week ago, Russia’s cyber attackers were less visible in the process of invasion but now they have taken the front seat.
Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine has led to dramatic sanctions being imposed on Putin and his country, a move that could, in turn, expose Western countries to greater risk of cyber attacks.
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