In retribution for its owner’s opposition to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, Russian hackers launched a “cyberattack” on Ukraine’s largest private energy conglomerate, the company said on Friday.
The hack was intended to “destabilise the technological processes” of DTEK Group’s distribution and generation businesses, spread misinformation about the business’s operations, and “leave Ukrainian consumers without electricity,” according to the company, which owns coal and thermal power plants in various regions of Ukraine.
Uncertainty exists over the hack’s actual effects and the computer systems that were compromised. No complaints of disruptions brought on by the incident have been made. Requests for comment from DTEK were not answered.
The hacking event came to light a few days after Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine and owner of DTEK, filed a lawsuit against Russia in front of the European Court of Human Rights, alleging that Russia caused Akhmetov to suffer billions of dollars in property rights losses.
The DTEK networks were allegedly penetrated this week, according to the Russian-speaking hacking collective XakNet, which provided images of allegedly stolen DTEK information on the Telegram app as evidence. According to a government alert from the US and allies, the hacking organisation first came to light in March and has stated that it targets Ukrainian authorities in support of Russia’s conflict.
According to Alden Wahlstrom, a senior analyst at the US cybersecurity company Mandiant, which has looked into some of XakNet’s activity, XakNet had access to information from a company that was probably hacked by a Russian cyber espionage group. This suggests a possible connection between XakNet and the Russian government.
Microsoft argued that Russian hacking has occasionally been employed in conjunction with kinetic military actions in a study published in April. On March 1, a cyberattack was launched against a Ukrainian broadcast organisation, the same day that a Russian missile was fired at a TV tower in Kyiv, according to the report.
Since Russia took Crimea in 2014, Russian hacker groups have often targeted Ukrainian energy suppliers. The Justice Department attributed cyberattacks on electric utilities in 2015 and 2016 that resulted in power outages in some areas of Ukraine to Russia’s military intelligence organisation.
In April, a 2 million-person region in Ukraine was reportedly targeted by the same Russian hacking organisation, but Ukrainian authorities said the breach was stopped.
According to DTEK’s statement on Friday, “the corporation takes every effort to maintain the steady functioning of Ukraine’s energy system throughout the conflict and to assure uninterrupted power delivery to Ukrainian consumers.”