At least from an IT point of view, the war waged by Russia against Ukraine seems to be lost and, for this reason, Moscow’s hackers seem to have changed their focus and they have intensified attacks against companies and institutions of all European countries considered allies of Kiev’s forces. The experts of the French group Thales and Microsoft are convinced that in recent months Russian cyber-attacks have significantly intensified in the old continent aimed at nations such as Poland, the Nordic and Baltic countries, considered very involved in the conflict undertaken by Russia against the Ukraine.
In the first weeks of 2023, about 17 European countries were attacked by Russian hackers while, previously waged cyber warfare directly against Ukraine, it seems, has already been lost by the Russians due to strong resistance from Kiev technicians . Poland, Sweden and Latvia, at the moment, appear to be the nations that have suffered the most cyber-attacks by groups directly linked to the Kremlin and not by private associations or individual hackers. Most of the cases have seen government agencies and strategic companies of the affected countries, among the most targeted victims, above all with the aim of obtaining information deemed useful for the purposes of the actual conflict in Ukraine.
All cyber-attacks conducted by Russian hackers are of different types and often tend to cause chaos within the logistics and digital archive systems of industrial multinationals and international organizations. The purpose of the hackers is to destroy the critical systems of the affected institution’s IT structure or steal sensitive information and then reuse it in favour of the Russian government. In many cases, the attack involves the introduction of viruses capable of interrupting the normal digital activity of an entire computer system.
Among the Russian criminal groups capable of major hacker attacks are the experts of APT28, considered among the most dangerous in the international panorama of cyber terrorism. Among the illustrious victims of the group, also called “Fancy Bear”, there is also the Democratic National Committee of the United States which suffered an attack in the crucial phases of the electoral campaign in order to favour Donald Trump’s victory at the polls. In fact, Russian hackers have been striking even before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and it happened, for example, as early as 2017 when a virus wreaked havoc on the computer systems of companies all over the world with damages that were estimated at millions.
Among the most used viruses to cause damage to companies and international organizational bodies, the most dangerous is spread through online messaging and e-mails, quickly infecting computer operating systems all over the world, permanently deleting files and making data and relevant information, unusable and no longer accessible. Similarly, Russian hackers, in 2018, attempted to sabotage the computer system of OPAC, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to invalidate investigations into the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the government of Bashar al -Assad but, on that occasion, the Dutch security services managed to thwart an attack that could have had extremely dangerous implications in an already very delicate geo-political situation.
In view of a worsening of the war situation in Ukraine and with Russia in serious economic difficulties due to international sanctions, technical collaboration by all NATO nations will be essential to prevent Russian hackers from hitting and stealing information and data never so as important as at this stage of the conflict. All of Europe will have to put in place the best possible defence to avoid Russian cyber “attacks” that could generate chaos.