Ukraine left reeling by ‘zombie’ cyberattacks

Ukrainian government websites and others belonging to allies of the embattled state have been hit by a recent barrage of distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks, according to the country’s cyber watchdog.

The source of the attacks was unconfirmed at the time of writing, but the Ukrainian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) said they involved a malicious Javascript known as “BrownFlood,” which was injected into compromised WordPress sites.

The malware turned the infected computers into “bots,” effectively conscripting them into a zombie army of hijacked computers to launch attacks on machines affiliated with Ukraine.

Such DDos attacks are designed to overwhelm target computers by forcing them to cope with an unusually high number of request messages, ultimately shutting them down. This technique, common in cyberwarfare, is often deployed without the infected computer’s owner or operator realizing anything amiss has happened.

In this case, the malicious script was injected into the HTML structure of the targeted machines, and encoded using the Base64 computing tool to avoid detection. Anyone visiting the compromised websites then becomes an unwitting adversary against Ukraine in the cyberwar.

Such tactics often work both ways. Last month, similar campaigns using the same malicious Javascript were detected being conducted against Russia and Ukraine.

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