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Ukrainian organizations faced more than 2,000 cyberattacks in 2022: Report

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Ukrainian organizations faced more than 2,000 cyberattacks in 2022, statistics from Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team provided to online news media Politico showed.

Of these attacks, more than 300 were launched against the security and defense sector, more than 400 targeted groups impacting civilian life, including organizations operating in the commercial, energy, financial, telecoms and software sectors, and more than 500 were aimed at government groups, Politico reported on Thursday.

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A recent report from Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP) revealed that while the pace of cyberattacks against the war-torn country slowed overall between September and December, they were mainly targeting public services and energy rather than the military.

The Kremlin has been orchestrating cyberattacks and missile strikes against Ukrainian energy and water companies as part of its war tactics, a December report from tech giant Microsoft found. The report also warned that these destructive cyberattacks could potentially spread to neighboring countries such as Poland and also private companies that are providing aid to Ukraine, including humanitarian aid organizations.

According to John Hultquist, Vice President of Threat Intelligence at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which has helped support Ukraine’s cyber defenses, several of these attacks were designed to “affect the civilian populace.”

“We think that some of these attempts, on power particularly, are done…to strike fear into every Ukrainian and really just up the psychological toll,” he told Politico.

Attacks have included an unsuccessful effort aimed at an electrical substation that would have resulted in severe disruption and power outages for millions of Ukrainians, an incident that closely resembled previous successful Russia-linked attacks in 2015 and 2016 that shut off the lights in various parts of the country.

“We’ve seen the Russians target civilian infrastructure in unsuccessful attempts to undermine the Ukrainians’ will to fight,” US Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner said in a statement provided to Politico.

Victor Zhora, Deputy Chair and Chief Digital Transformation Officer of Ukraine’s SSSCIP, said that the public sector is now being attacked “twice as much” as the military sector.

“The key purposes of Russia’s hacking activity are espionage, misinformation and damaging critical infrastructure that impacts large amounts of population,” Zhora said in a statement provided to Politico.

“Russia’s activities in Ukraine, their unprovoked aggression in cyberspace, has the same goals as their so-called ‘military strategy’ for Ukraine, i.e. terrorizing Ukrainian civilians,” he added.

Zhora believes that these attacks are only likely to intensify throughout 2023, as the war now continues into its 11th month, adding that “complex” attacks on power grid operators and electricity distributors were ongoing. He warned that Moscow is now targeting less secure companies that provide software to critical infrastructure groups in order to gain backdoor access.

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