A group of Russian hackers known as Killnet has disrupted contact between NATO and military aircraft providing aid to victims of the 7.8 magnitude Turkey-Syria earthquake which has so far claimed over 30,000 lives, The Telegraph reported.
The hackers claimed responsibility for the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which took down the website of NATO Special Operations Headquarters and the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) among others.
A DDoS attack is a type of cyberattack that is aimed at making a website or online service unavailable to its intended users by overwhelming it with a large amount of traffic.
Essentially, the attacker floods the target with so much data that it becomes overwhelmed and can no longer handle legitimate traffic, making it difficult or impossible for users to access the site or service.
“We are carrying out strikes on NATO. Details in a closed channel,” the hacker group said on one of its associate Telegram channels.
Although the NATO website was only down for a couple of hours, the DDoS attack is believed to have hampered the relief efforts, with one of the SAC’s C-17 aircraft being warned about the disruption during a mission.
SAC aircraft have been used for several key missions since 2009, including the evacuation of 3,000 civilians from Kabul after the Taliban takeover in 2021. It is currently being used to transport aid to the earthquake-stricken areas.
Confirming the incident, a NATO official stated that NATO’s cyber experts are actively addressing the issue and take cyber security very seriously.
Although communication with the aircraft was not completely disrupted, the Killnet cyberattack is believed to have impeded the efforts to provide aid.
Western security agencies have described Killnet as a loosely organized group of pro-Kremlin activists who engage in basic DDoS attacks against countries that support Ukraine. Despite causing temporary outages, the group has not caused any significant lasting damage so far.
Killnet has been active in the cyberspace and has clashed with the pro-Western hacktivist collective Anonymous in the past.
The group has been blamed for taking down the websites of several hospitals in the US and was responsible for a video released in March 2022, which urged Russians to remain in the country and support the motherland during the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
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