Ukraine’s Cyberattack Cripples Russia’s Tax System

Ukrainian Military’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) Launches Devastating Cyberattack on Russia’s Federal Tax Service (FTS) and IT Infrastructure

According to Ukrainian intelligence, its cybersecurity experts have destroyed databases and backups used by the Russian tax authorities.

The Ukrainian military’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) claims to have crippled Russia’s Federal Tax Service (FTS) through a sophisticated cyberattack. Apparently, the hackers backed by the agency infiltrated thousands of servers, destroying databases and backups, and disrupting communication between the central office and regional branches.

The breach reportedly encompassed not only the FTS itself but also a Russian IT company responsible for its data center services. Cybersecurity experts from the agency targeted the FTS and the IT company The “paralysis” caused in the operation of the Russian system due to this attack may persist for at least a month, with full recovery nearly impossible, GUR said.

The directorate also stated that the attack has completely wiped out configuration files, rendering it inoperable. The primary database and backups were obliterated, leaving Russia struggling to recover vital tax data.

Screenshot shared by Ukranian authorities the the official website of the Federal Tax Service of Russia (ФНС). It says that the website is not working today, December 12, 2023. The message is in Russian language. The other screenshot shows a series of connection timeouts, apparently occurring at the taxation network in Russia:

Ukraine Cyberattack Cripples Russia's Tax System
Screenshot shared by Ukranian authorities the the official website of the Federal Tax Service of Russia (ФНС). It says that the website is not working today, December 12, 2023. The message is in Russian and says: “ФНС не работает сегодня 12.12.2023” (FNS ne rabotayet segodnya 12.12.2023).

The attack also severed communication between the FTS central office and its 2,300 regional branches, paralyzing nationwide operations. Ukraine’s hackers now control tax-related internet traffic across Russia, potentially granting them access to more sensitive information.

The attack took place recently during which military intelligence operatives penetrated the tax system’s central server as well as over 2,300 of its regional servers across Russia and occupied Crimea. It may cause several weeks or even months of disruption to tax collection and government operations.

It is worth noting that the cyberattack is just another one in a series of attacks carried out by Ukraine. A couple of weeks ago, in November, Ukraine claimed to have breached Russia’s top Aviation agency and announced “Aviation Cannibalism,” suggesting that the country’s aviation sector is collapsing.

Ukrainian media also reported a cyberattack on Russia’s Labor Ministry in November, allegedly launched by hacker group Blackjack and Ukraine’s SBU intelligence agency, resulting in the acquisition of sensitive data. However, the SBU has remained silent, leaving room for speculation and raising questions about the operation’s veracity and purpose.

On the other hand, a DDoS attack was launched on Kyivstar, a Ukrainian telecom provider, on December 12. Ukraine’s SBU Security Service suspects Russian intelligence involvement and has launched a criminal investigation. Kyivstar’s Director, Oleksandr Komarov, is still determining the restoration timeframe.

These events mark a significant escalation in cyber warfare between Ukraine and Russia. The attack on the Russian tax system is the second major cyberattack Ukraine claims responsibility for against Russian state agencies in recent months.

However, it is worth noting that while collaboration between the Ukrainian government and hacking groups is likely, we are still waiting for more details to determine the exact scope and modus operandi of this attack.

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