Published on June 29th, 2019 📆 | 5767 Views ⚑0
Cyberattack against Russia used Five Eyes-linked malware – report
Hackers working for Western intelligence agencies broke into Russian internet search company Yandex in late 2018, deploying a rare type of malware in an attempt to spy on user accounts, four people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The malware, called Regin, is known to be used by the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance of the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the sources said. Intelligence agencies in those countries declined to comment.
Western cyberattacks against Russia are seldom acknowledged or spoken about in public. It could not be determined which of the five countries was behind the attack on Yandex, said sources in Russia and elsewhere, three of whom had direct knowledge of the hack. The breach took place between October and November 2018.
Yandex spokesman Ilya Grabovsky acknowledged the incident in a statement to Reuters, but declined to provide further details.
“This particular attack was detected at a very early stage by the Yandex security team. It was fully neutralised before any damage was done,” he said. “Yandex security team’s response ensured that no user data was compromised by the attack.”
The company, widely known as Russia’s Google for its array of online services from internet search to email and taxi reservations, says it has more than 108 million monthly users in Russia. It also operates in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
The sources who described the attack to Reuters said the hackers appeared to be searching for technical information that could explain how Yandex authenticates user accounts. Such information could help a spy agency impersonate a Yandex user and access their private messages.
The hack of Yandex’s research and development unit was intended for espionage purposes rather than to disrupt or steal intellectual property, the sources said. The hackers covertly maintained access to Yandex for at least several weeks without being detected, they said.
The Regin malware was identified as a Five Eyes tool in 2014 following revelations by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Reports by The Intercept, in partnership with a Dutch and Belgian newspaper, tied an earlier version of Regin to a hack at Belgian telecom firm Belgacom in 2013 and said British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the NSA were responsible. At the time GCHQ declined to comment and the NSA denied involvement.
Security experts say attributing cyberattacks can be difficult because of obfuscation methods used by hackers.
But some of the Regin code found on Yandex’s systems had not been deployed in any known previous cyberattacks, the sources said, reducing the risk that attackers were deliberately using known Western hacking tools to cover their tracks.
Yandex called in Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky, which established the attackers were targeting a group of developers inside Yandex, three sources said. A private assessment by Kaspersky, described to Reuters, concluded hackers likely tied to Western intelligence breached Yandex using Regin.
A Kaspersky spokeswoman declined to comment.