As its troops fought pro-Russian rebels this summer, the Ukrainian government faced a stealth attack on a separate front.
Hackers apparently entered government computer networks in search of sensitive intelligence files.
A report from cybersecurity firm iSight Partners blames this attack on Russian hackers who, over the past five years, have attacked “… policy makers, defense officials and diplomats”.
iSight said the targets of the ongoing cyber blitz range from energy and communications companies to NATO and European Union governments.
Since all the victims appear to be opponents of Russia, the hackers are believed to be working with the support of the government of Vladimir Putin.
The hackers are nicknamed the “Sandworm Team” because references to a “Dune” science fiction series have been found embedded in the malware code.
Sandworm spies exploited a loophole in Microsoft Windows and used a common technique called “spear-phishing”. The hackers sent innocent-looking emails which, when opened, injected malware into the targets’ computer servers.
In the case of the most recent violation, Sandworm sent tempting emails to Ukrainian government officials claiming to contain information about pro-Russian agitators.
Microsoft says it has now released a patch to correct the vulnerability. And cyber investigators are trying to assess the extent of the damage done.
While it’s clear that hackers hacked into multiple systems, we don’t know what they took.