Cybersecurity Battle: Russia vs. Ukraine

By: Jake Sheckter  |  March 13, 2022

By Jake Sheckter, Business Editor

Most are, unfortunately, all too aware of the battle being fought between the people of Ukraine and the invading Russian forces. But there is another fight with its own destructive power and potential for chaos already underway that most of us know nothing about. Another battle is being fought in Ukraine, invisible to most people, yet absolutely critical to the eventual outcome of the war. As likely or unlikely the threat of nuclear war is, it has still been a concept floating around many of our minds. But what we don’t realize is that there are other, much more subtle ways to knock out the looming threats. “Cyber attacks” are now on the forefront of high-tech weaponry used in the current Russia/Ukraine conflict.

Many experts predicted that Russia would launch significant cyber attacks on Ukraine, such as targeting and shutting down the country’s electrical grid or launching an attack on the country’s water systems. Generally, large-scale attacks have not been reported, but the rumblings of smaller assaults are already beginning to emerge. On Monday, March 7, 2022, Google said it had uncovered widespread phishing attacks targeting Ukrainian officials and the Polish military. Investopedia defines phishing as “a method of identity theft that relies on individuals unwittingly volunteering personal details or information that can then be used for nefarious purposes. It is often carried out through the creation of a fraudulent website, email, or text appearing to represent a legitimate firm.” Although digital and hard to isolate, cyber attacks are having a serious effect. After fleeing Kyiv earlier this week, one cybersecurity professional stated that Wi-Fi was down where he’d moved as Ukrainian forces had been required to blow up bridges, taking down internet cables as collateral damage. In this exchange of cyberattacks, hoards of phishing emails struck Ukraine’s military personnel, supposedly originating from a Belarussian hacking crew. 

Ukraine and Russia will both be playing offense and defense, attempting to preserve and defend resources while simultaneously breaking into Russian systems. Information-wiping malware is beginning to spread across the Ukrainian nation, capable of erasing a computer or server’s memory in seconds. Some reports citing a U.S. official have even indicated that power plants have been under attack, though little to no details were provided. Even cybercriminals—the Conti ransomware crew, namely—have threatened to attack critical infrastructure in retaliation to “any war activities against Russia.” 

Security firm Resecurity Inc. also shared evidence of a coordinated hacking program targeting US firms supplying natural gas (a commodity that has become volatile and rising as a result of sanctions against Russia). The attacks on gas firms began roughly two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, and many believe that securing a foothold (a position of power or influence) in U.S gas suppliers could potentially offer opportunities for geopolitical leverage. As European nations try to solve the issues that come along with having been so heavily reliant on Russian natural gas as part of economic sanctions, energy firms in the United States have been hiking up their supply, making the US the world’s top provider of liquefied natural gas or LNG. Europe’s previous dependency on Russia for oil and gas as well as its increasing production capacity all played a contributing role in making the U.S. the world’s top LNG supplier for the past three months. Out of about 60 U.S. natural gas cargoes currently being shipped out, nearly two-thirds are headed towards Europe. Ultimately, as a result of the numerous consequences imposed by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, officials are encouraging that everyone make an active effort in being more “cyber conscious” and wary of potential attacks or phishing schemes in an attempt to reduce the possibility of further escalating this dangerous, invisible warfare.