Microsoft: Russia has stepped up cyber espionage against supporters of Ukraine

Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up the rate of cyber-attacks against countries that have helped Ukraine, according to a new study released on Wednesday by Microsoft, which also said it had witnessed attempts by Russian hackers in more than 40 countries.

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Much of the Kremlin’s negative cyber activity was aimed at spying on governments that are NATO members, and the targets also included nonprofits, research institutes and humanitarian organizations designed to provide support to Ukrainian refugees, as well as information technology and energy companies, Microsoft said.

The United States has been the target of the most attacks outside Ukraine, about 12 percent of the world’s total since the war in Ukraine began, the technology company said.

“As a coalition of countries that have joined hands to defend Ukraine, Russian intelligence agencies have stepped up intrusion into networks and espionage operations aimed at foreign governments,” the report said.

Microsoft has a unique look at the actions of hackers

Senior officials in the Biden administration warned before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that Moscow had apparently targeted the US with cyber attacks, although devastating attacks on vital infrastructure had not been made or had so far failed.

Microsoft has not provided data comparing the recent burst of Russian cyber operations to what the company’s routine threat handling team has encountered, but has generally described an increase in activity. Because Microsoft products are so widely used around the world, the company has a unique and exclusive look at the operations of various hacker groups.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moscow routinely denies allegations of cyberattacks against other countries and said it had recently been the victim of cyberattacks by Western countries.

Since the war began on February 24, Microsoft has announced that it has identified attempts to infiltrate the network by Russians against 128 targets in 42 non-Ukrainian countries, which has, of course, been the victim of routine Russian cyberattacks, according to the Ukrainian government and other cyber companies. Many of the alleged Russian attacks were unsuccessful and on a smaller scale than many experts initially expected. In April, Microsoft announced that about six groups of hackers affiliated with the Russian government had tried to carry out hundreds of cyberattacks in Ukraine since the Russian invasion, including dozens designed to destroy computer systems.

Less than a third of the attacks were successful

In total, 63% of the global number of attacks related to Russia were against NATO members, Microsoft announced, and those closest to Ukraine geographically suffered the most. Poland was attacked more than any other country in the region. The targets included the Baltic states, and over the past two months Microsoft Announced that it had seen an increase in activity against computer networks in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey, as well as against foreign ministries of other countries that are members of NATO.

So far only a little less than a third of cyber-spyware attacks have been able to hit their targets, Microsoft said, and at least a quarter of those successes have led to information theft.

Russia has also stepped up its use of cyber-influence against local and international audiences in an attempt to bolster its war goals, efforts that included spreading false narratives designed to undermine Western unity with Ukraine, Microsoft said.


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