Cyber ​​Warfare: The Transformation of Hackers from Cyber ​​Criminals to Hacktivists

Written by: Nataliia Zdrok, Risk Intelligence Analyst at Binary Protection

The Russian invasion of Ukraine elevated malicious cyber exercise amongst hacktivists. A number of prison hacker teams that assist the Putin regime have reworked from prison service suppliers into hacktivist teams. This alteration got here in response to the unprecedented international sanctions imposed on Russia, in addition to materials assist for Ukraine offered by the US and its companions.

Russian hacktivists aren’t targeted on monetary acquire; they’re working to advertise political and social causes. Hacktivist organizations are motivated by patriotic ideas and have been utilized by Russia and different governments as a useful resource throughout navy confrontations. Whereas the federal government can use and affect the path of hacktivist teams, they’ve been notoriously tough to regulate, with members usually changing any formal path on what to focus on with their very own judgment. Hacktivists are conscious and delicate to present occasions on the battlefield, in addition to on the geopolitical entrance, and reply to them in close to actual time.

The variety of pro-Russian cyber teams concerned within the battle is growing

In keeping with cyberacquaintance, a gaggle that gives Open Supply Intelligence (OSINT) analysis and geopolitical consciousness reporting, because the battle started, the variety of cyber teams concerned throughout the battle has modified dramatically. The variety of pro-Russian cyber teams was initially decrease than the pro-Ukrainian one till September 2022.

Date Assist Ukraine Assist Russia Unknown
02/28/2022 eleven 6 1
5/3/2022 39 13 3
4/4/2022 48 23 3
1/5/2022 48 30 two
8/8/2022 4. 5 43 5
7/9/2022 35 43 5
12/10/2022 36 42 6
11/28/2022 36 40 5

Desk 1. Variety of hacktivist teams aligned with Russia or Ukraine because the February invasion, courtesy of CyberKnown.

Binary Protection analysts have seen a major improve in Russian-supporting teams, from 6 to 43, in a brief time period. There could also be much less assist for Russia at first because the malicious actors hoped for a fast victory, after which, realizing that the objective was not achievable, they targeted on serving to Russia additional. Binary Protection analysts additionally assess that some teams could also be below the affect of the Russian authorities and have been pressured to cooperate because the battle started. This evaluation relies on the truth that Russian authorities arrested a number of cybercriminal teams simply previous to the invasion, and previous occasions, in addition to leaked chat logs of cybercriminals, assist the conclusion that Russian authorities authorities have pressured cybercriminals to cooperate in alternate for his or her launch. from jail.

Nevertheless, many of the teams are primarily based in Russia, are very patriotic and willingly assist Russia’s efforts. Analysts have seen a rise in distributed denial of service (DDoS) and knowledge leak assaults concentrating on governments, important industries and organizations in Ukraine and Western nations.

KillNet: a pacesetter in hacktivism

KillNet was created in November 2021 and provided a software to launch DDoS assaults. Nevertheless, after the battle began, the gang reworked from a prison service supplier to a hacktivist group.

in Might 2022, KillNet formally declared cyber battle in opposition to the US, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and naturally Ukraine. For the reason that battle started, we’ve got seen a rise in DDoS assaults concentrating on governments, important infrastructure, and organizations primarily based in these nations.

The group seeks revenge for the wrongdoing they imagine the West has dedicated in opposition to Russia, they usually reply instantly. For instance, in June 2022, 1,652 Lithuanian on-line sources had been attacked in retaliation for the blockade of Lithuania stopping the passage of products to Kaliningrad. In September, it was reported that hackers had additionally declared cyber battle on the Japanese authorities, accusing it of operating a marketing campaign in opposition to Russia. In August, KillNet shut down the web site of the Moldovan Info Know-how Service in response to criticism expressed by the Moldovan authorities relating to the battle in Ukraine.

From February to September, the group primarily focused on concentrating on EU-based nations, however in a latest interview given by KillMilk, the founding father of KillNet, introduced that that they had began concentrating on US-based firms.” For eight months, we’ve got been studying and breaking Europe as the US ready to fulfill us. We’re simply starting to assault the our on-line world territory of the US,” the hacker mentioned.

In October of this 12 months, KillNet launched a number of assaults in opposition to US airports, in addition to state authorities web sites in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Colorado. KillNet lately claimed to have attacked varied FBI web sites and the White Home web site.

On November 18, KillNet, in cooperation with different hacking teams, claimed duty for the assault on the service supplier Starlink. The group acknowledged on its Telegram channel that subscribers had been denied entry to Starlink for a number of hours. The Ukrainian navy has generally used Starlink as a cellular Web service supplier throughout the Russian invasion. It’s important that the Ukrainian military and volunteer protection items on the entrance have entry to the Web.

The group has 92,000 followers on its Telegram channel, which inspires the gang to proceed launching extra assaults. They use a large viewers to advertise their concepts and entice extra hackers. In September 2022, they introduced that 14 new hacking teams had joined the KillNet hacking collective.

The group has a well-organized command construction, permitting them to launch coordinated assaults. KillNet consists of a number of “specialist squads”, the principle one having been dubbed Legion. Completely different small squads are organized round Legion and its chief. Earlier than an assault, directions are despatched to the commanders of every squadron. This decentralized strategy helps the group set up assaults extra effectively.

KillMilk declares battle on Lockheed Martin

Amongst all of the cyberattacks launched by pro-Russian teams, the one which drew probably the most consideration was an assault on Lockheed Martin, a US protection company.

The hacker named KillMilk declared battle on Lockheed Martin in retaliation for US-supplied HIMARS methods to Ukraine. KillMilk is the founding father of KillNet, however so as to “defend” the gang, KillMilk left the hacktivist group and instantly launched the DDoS assault in opposition to Lockheed Martin claiming credit score as a person, slightly than involving KillNet. The hacker claimed to have stolen info from Lockheed Martin, however Lockheed Martin denied that any of its methods had been compromised.

On November 13, the anniversary of the KillMilk hacker group, he posted a patriotic message:

“Earlier than a particular navy operation, we left the darkish net house and joined the Russian mission. The whole lot we’ve got executed since day one is simply to assist our nation. Possibly that is the one factor that makes us completely different.”

The XakNet group helped on the battlefield

XakNet Crew is a hacktivist group that grew to become identified when the battle began. In an interview, an affiliate of the group claimed that earlier than the battle its members had been IT service suppliers, however since February 24 they’ve develop into hacktivists. The group introduced its assist for the Kremlin’s place and instantly launched assaults in opposition to Ukrainian entities.

Just lately, the XakNet group gained entry to the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine. In response to the assault, Dmitry Gusev, a Russian State Duma deputy, proposed assigning navy ranks to the Russian hackers.

Hacktivists from the Russian group XakNet additionally took down the servers of the Ukrainian surveillance and steerage system “Kropiva”. They believed that the blockade helped considerably scale back the capabilities of the Ukrainian military on the entrance line. They received a certificates of appreciation from the Russian Colonel Normal.

Picture supply:

Joker DNR hacks American command and management program

Professional-Russian hacker “Joker DNR” claimed to have entry to the DELTA program, a system for receiving, evaluating, and displaying info on enemy troops, coordinating defensive forces, and offering real-time situational consciousness. This system meets NATO necessities and is actively utilized by Ukrainian forces.

The hacktivist posted screenshots of the present on his Telegram channel on November 1, however Ukrainian authorities didn’t verify the assault.

Andrey Baranovich, a Ukrainian cybersecurity skilled, mentioned that some accidents occurred in August when hackers used e mail to entry consumer accounts. In keeping with Baranovich, the hacking makes an attempt in opposition to DELTA will proceed.

united russian hacktivists

OSINT evaluation signifies a rise in DDoS and knowledge leak assaults concentrating on governments, important industries and organizations in Ukraine and Western nations. Fairly often, hacktivist teams come collectively to launch assaults. For instance, the chief of the hacktivist group Zarya, Hesh, claimed to have launched an assault in opposition to the Safety Service of Ukraine in cooperation with different teams, akin to Bereginya and XakNet.

KillNet and the hacker teams Msidstress, Radis, Nameless Russian, Mirai and Halva have claimed duty for the DDoS assault in opposition to Starlink.

Professional-Russian hacktivist teams have develop into extra organized and have began to cooperate as they share the identical objective. This may assist them launch extra highly effective and damaging assaults sooner or later.

Rising hazard from hacktivists

Over the past 12 months, former cybercriminals pushed by the identical ideology that helps Russia have morphed into hacktivists. Russian hacktivists promote campaigns to spotlight and publicize their successes on their Telegram channels and media retailers to draw extra members.

Hacktivist teams not embrace a number of random individuals who can launch minor DDoS assaults or disrupt small web sites. There may be now coordination by these teams to hold out large-scale deliberate DDoS assaults in opposition to their targets whereas sustaining lively public relations campaigns. Organizations and governments ought to contemplate these actions as ample warning.

Binary Protection analysts will proceed to watch Russian Telegram channels, underground boards, social media, and different sources for any new developments on this subject.

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