'Wiper' Malware Discovered on Ukrainian Devices as Bank Websites Suffer Cyberattacks

As a political crisis in Ukraine devolves into a military one, government agencies and banks continue to be the target of anonymous cyberattacks.

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As an ongoing political crisis continues to roil Ukraine, the nation’s banks and government agencies have been struck with disruptive cyberattacks for the second time in two weeks.

Last week, a number of banks and government agencies were affected by denial-of-service attacks, the likes of which knocked their websites offline. On Wednesday, a similar series of attacks occurred: Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, said that DDoS attacks had hit the websites of a number of government agencies, including the Foreign Ministry and Security Service, as well as those of a number of large banks.

At the same time, threat analysts with cybersecurity firm ESET alleged late Wednesday that Ukraine had also been struck by a destructive “wiper” malware—similar, in form, to one that was used in an anonymous attack on Ukrainian government agencies in January. The malware, which has reportedly been “installed on hundreds of machines in the country,” could be used to corrupt data on the devices it has infected, ESET researchers tweeted.

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If you’ve been living under a rock for the past month and somehow don’t know why any of this is happening, here’s the recap: For the past several weeks, a diplomatic scuffle in Ukraine has threatened to devolve into a potentially catastrophic military engagement that would have major implications for the entire world. The Biden administration has perpetually warned that Russia is planning a full-on military invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s forever president, has continually denied this, though his recent maneuvers might lead you to think otherwise.

Ultimately, all of this conflict revolves around questions about the political future of Ukraine. Russia maintains that the West has aggressively encircled it via its Cold-War era defense club NATO and that, should Ukraine receive NATO membership, it would basically be the last straw. Allied countries in the west have proffered that Russia is hellbent on a maniacal takeover of Europe and that an invasion of Ukraine is a pretext for a larger plan of Russian resurgence in the realm of global affairs.

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Amidst all this conflict, there’s been a lot of talk about what kind of role hackers and cyber warfare might play in the lead-up to a broader military engagement. Here’s what people are saying:

  • The White House has warned of potential Russian cyber incursions against the United States, as a result of the ongoing diplomatic tensions.
  • U.S. authorities have also alleged (without much evidence, it should be noted) that Russian hackers are probably already inside Ukrainian computer systems tied to the nation’s critical infrastructure.
  • American officials have also continually alleged that Russia will conduct some sort of “false flag” operation, as part of an alleged disinformation campaign used to justify a military invasion. A self-admitted “information war” has muddied the waters as to what is actually happening on the ground inside the conflict zone.
  • All of this follows revelations last week that Russian hackers have been engaged in a years-long campaign targeted at American defense contractors, the purpose of which has been to steal intelligence and highly sensitive data.