Russia ramps up efforts to hack Ukraine’s allies, Microsoft says

Russian cyber spies went into overdrive following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, launching multiple attacks against Kyiv’s allies. Estonia is a notable exception.

Russian intelligence agencies had stepped up network penetration and espionage activities against 42 countries outside Ukraine since the war broke out, a report released by Microsoft said.

While Russian hackers prioritized NATO governments, they also launched attacks against think tanks, humanitarian organizations, IT companies, and critical infrastructure, including energy suppliers.

American organizations were Russia’s number one target. Poland, a hub for military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, was also high on the priority list. As were the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia but not Estonia, where not a single intrusion was detected. Microsoft attributes this to the country’s adoption of cloud services.

“We remain the most concerned about government computers that are running on premises rather than in the cloud,” the report said.

The US, Poland, and the two Baltic countries accounted for more than a third of all attacks, but Denmark, Norway, and Turkey were also affected. Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members but have expressed a desire to join the alliance, faced an increase in hostile activities as well.

Microsoft estimates that 29% of identified attacks were successful, with a quarter of those leading to data theft. It warned that this “likely understates the degree of Russian success” but noted that target countries were also ramping up their defenses.

In the past, Russia denied it was carrying out cyber attacks.

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