Inside Putin’s secret cyber units, where elite Russian hackers attacked the US, UK and Ukraine

With Russia and Ukraine seemingly on the brink of war, all are poised for President Vladimir Putin’s forces – including his army of hackers.

Over the years, Moscow has faced numerous accusations of cyberattacks that have resulted in numerous sanctions and expulsions of its diplomats.


The term “hacker” has become almost synonymous with Russia.

From “troll factories” to hackers believed to be controlled by the country’s security services, here’s an overview of Russia’s cybercrime world.


Russia has for decades been the birthplace of computer specialists.

During Soviet times, the government promoted advances in science and technology, and – with the arrival of the first computers – in programming.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of talented but poorly paid programmers turned to cybercrime, soon making Russians famous for their credit card thefts around the world.

Kevin Limonier, of the French Institute of Geopolitics, said: “In the 90s, the environment was fermented, with its resourceful culture and tendency to break the rules.


Experts say that in its long-term relationship with the West, Russia relies heavily on its cyber and information warfare capabilities.

Several notorious hacking groups are suspected of working for the country’s security services, and the Russian Defense Ministry established its own “cyber units” in 2012.

The first large-scale attack by Russia took place in 2007, when the Baltic state of Estonia faced a wave of cyberattacks targeting its press, banks and government ministries.

The United States says that hackers from Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU) tried to manipulate the 2016 presidential election by breaking into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s campaign. Clinton.

The most famous group of cyber espionage involved in dozens of cases is known as Fancy Bear or APT28. It is believed to be funded by the Russian government.

According to Washington, the attack on US software developer SolarWinds was carried out by SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency.

The attack compromised government agencies like the FBI and hundreds of private companies.

Ukrainian government websites were hacked last month, Russia alleges, with compromised pages carrying messages warning locals to 'wait for the worst'


Ukrainian government websites were hacked last month, Russia alleges, with compromised pages carrying messages warning locals to ‘wait for the worst’Credit: Unknown


More recently, attacks have focused on Ukraine and its NATO allies in an attempt to destabilize the region.

More than 140,000 troops are currently stationed on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders ahead of a possible invasion. intelligence officer believe it could launch as early as this week.

Putin’s intentions are still unclear, but he is very critical of Ukraine’s plans to join NATO.

Last month, hackers believed to work for Russia targeted the websites of Ukrainian government agencies and banks.

The suggestion is that cyber sleuths are probing systems in preparation for a large-scale shutdown of critical infrastructure in the event of an invasion.

Kyiv alleges that Moscow is engaged in a growing “mixed war” against it.

The Department of Digital Development said: “All evidence points to Russia being behind the cyber attack.

The attackers are expected to also target NATO members.

England, for example, was told prepare for a massive cyber attack against the possibility of war in Ukraine.

National Cybersecurity Council issued a rare national alert after a series of dangerous cyberattacks purportedly by Kremlin-backed hackers.


“Cyberattacks carried out by the Russian secret service are part of a multi-year international operation aimed at gathering strategic information,” German intelligence said in 2016, referring to the activities. espionage and sabotage.

The list of alleged Russian attacks is long: the 2015 drone attack on the German parliament; targeting Ukrainian artillery units from 2014 to 2016; hack the French television network in 2015; interfered in the US elections in 2016 and 2020, and targeted coronavirus vaccine institutes in the West in 2020.

Experts say that attacks are becoming more sophisticated than ever.

Intelligence expert Andrei Soldatov said: “The level of Russian cyberattacks is increasing compared to three or four years ago.

“We know of activities that have been detected but a lot are still effective.”

Headquarters of Russian intelligence agencies in Moscow, Russia


Headquarters of Russian intelligence agencies in Moscow, RussiaCredit: Reuters


Russia is also accused of carrying out large-scale disinformation campaigns aimed at shaking up democratic processes in the West and sowing discord on social media.

The country is said to be operating online “troll factories” that fabricate fake viral information in an attempt to influence internet users.

The allegations target both state media including RT (formerly Russia Today) and Kremlin allies such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman suspected of having “troll factory” origins in Russia and Europe Fly.

Washington has accused President Vladimir Putin’s ally of funding the Internet Research Agency, a Saint Petersburg-based company that sought to influence American voters in 2016.


Aware that the nature of cyberattacks makes their origins difficult to trace, the Kremlin has always denied any involvement and accused the West of waging a disinformation war against Russia.

Russia has also repeatedly pledged its desire to cooperate in the cyber field.

During the upcoming 2020 US presidential election, Putin has proposed a non-intervention election treaty and a global agreement against the abuse of communication technology.

The proposal was left with no response.

Mr. Soldatov suggested that Russia may be using hacking attacks to force the West to cooperate.

He did not rule out that, facing the threat from Russia and wanting a better alternative, “European and US police may want to return to cooperation with Russia on cyber security”.

Igor Kostyukov, Director of Russian Military Intelligence, the unit responsible for many of Moscow's large-scale cyberattacks


Igor Kostyukov, Director of Russian Military Intelligence, the unit responsible for many of Moscow’s large-scale cyberattacksCredit: Getty

In other news, a British woman was tell of her horror after scammers used photos of a “silver fox” politician to defraud her of £80,000.

Norfolk . County Council suing Apple about what it says is misinformation about iPhone sales.

The creators of a scary new horror game say the title is so disturbing that they have to censor it on PlayStation.

And, Apple announced Update to AirTags follows claims that coin-sized tracking devices are being used to track people.

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Caroline Bleakley

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