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Russian ‘hacktivists’ are causing trouble beyond Ukraine

There are likely some connections in Russian hacker groups. In many cases, they cross-posted about the work of other groups on their Telegram channels, Wallstrom said. For example, when Kilnet called for targeting Lithuania, it posted a message asking for help from XakNet, Russian ransomware groups, and other pro-Russian hacking groups.

“XakNet and Killnet have provided a fair amount of media interviews in the Russian media space, which is a reason to at least consider that some of this activity has a potential dual component,” Wahlstrom said. “They are helping to advance Russian interests in Ukraine or even further abroad, but on the other hand they are being heavily promoted in the Russian media as these patriotic volunteer demonstration groups who support the decisions of the Russian government.”

Kilnet responded to a request for comment saying it is “no longer friends” with XakNet. “Our enemy is your government brother,” the group says. “But we are not dangerous to the general public.”

DDoS attacks are also prominent in Ukraine. Officials there have created a volunteer IT army where people from around the world can help carry out attacks on Russian targets. The IT army said the websites of Russian government departments, food delivery services and banks should be taken down, at least temporarily—one of Putin’s speeches last month. An hour late After IT Army raids. Attacks against Russia have also come from hacktivist groups outside of Ukraine. Like Anonymous.

Ultimately, as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, the activities of pro-Russian cyber groups continue to align with Russian goals. “Moscow has deliberately obscured its relationship with Russia-based hacktivist groups,” said Emily Harding, deputy director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US-based think tank. “Moscow’s security services know who these operators are and use some form of leverage to force them to cooperate when necessary.”

Harding said analysts continue to predict that Russia will use “instruments of denial” and groups to retaliate against countries that support Ukraine. Although DDoS attacks are not sophisticated, they contribute to this effort. And the more sophisticated the attacks of so-called hacktivist groups, the more likely they are to cause more damage or increase the risk of conflict. “The risk of miscalculation is real,” Harding said. “No one has yet tested the limits of cyber operations without exacerbating them.”

Janvi Rajput

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