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Microsoft Claims Russian Military Worked With Hackers To Launch Cyberattacks On Ukraine

Written By: Dipaneeta Das

Microsoft released a report that detailed over 200 cyberattacks carried out at the same time of the “kinetic” military operations in Ukraine. Researchers at Microsoft disclosed that Russian hackers and military worked in “tandem” to launch relentless cyberattacks on Ukraine since the war began on February 24. Some of the said security breaches were also reportedly carried out about a year before the massive hit on the east European geopolitics landscape. 

The report released on Wednesday mapped the details of over 200 alleged digital strikes that Microsoft believed were coordinated between the Russian military and illegal hackers throughout the invasion.

The US-based software giant said that the Russian cyberattacks, like hacking, some previously activities, and the military operations worked in “tandem against a shared target.” Vice President of customer security in Microsoft, Tom Burt, in a blog post claimed that Russia’s use of cyber strikes “appear to strongly correlated and sometimes directly timed” with the “kinetic” military operations on services and institutions in Ukraine. 

“The attacks have not only degraded the systems of institutions in Ukraine but have also sought to disrupt people’s access to reliable information and critical life services on which civilians depend, and have attempted to shake confidence in the country’s leadership,” Burt said. Microsoft also claimed that given the intricate nature of the interconnection between the cyberattacks and the on-ground Russian onslaught, it is plausible that Russians laid the groundwork way before the invasion.

Russian cyber operations began in March 2021: Microsoft

Microsoft said that the cyber operations of what it called “Russia-aligned non-state actors” began prepositioning in March 2021.

Exemplifying the intensity of the cyberattacks, the software company explained Ukrainians began receiving emails from Russian organisations pretending to be Ukrainian residents and falsely accused Kyiv of “abandoning” its citizens amid strikes in Mariupol.  Ukrainian cyber security experts have continued to record such instances, in addition to the continued cyber infringement of large telecom companies and energy grid operators.

 The hackers used a myriad of techniques, including phishing, exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities, and compromising upstream IT service providers to access their targets. This helped them to collect strategic “battlefield intelligence” in order to hit target zones. Microsoft also believes that such an attack will continue as the war goes on.

Earlier Ukraine had accused Moscow of a “hybrid warfare” by targeting government websites, including that of the Kyiv Defence Ministry. Russia, however, said that it has no participation in the “DDO cyber attack.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov in March also slammed the US for alleging that Moscow was preparing for cyber strikes in response to sanctions. Peskov said Russia doesn’t engage in such “banditry.”

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