Germany: wartime cybercrime in Ukraine

Cyber ​​attacks are part of modern war strategy. In Russia’s war against Ukraine they serve to demoralize and misinform, but they also influence the development of the conflict.

In Germany, even the Federal Criminal Investigation Office (BKA) was the target of a cyberattack, but without serious consequences. Last week, hackers launched a flood of requests to the servers of various German authorities and ministries: the intention was to overload and crash them. The DDos (Distributed Denial of Service) attack was carried out by Killernet, a group of Russian hackers.

The vice-president of the BKA, Martina Link, warned in the presentation of the “Cybercrime Situation Report” about the solidarity of hacking groups with Russia and Ukraine, and the risk that “people are indirectly affected by these attacks, without that being the objective”.

The war in Ukraine also takes place in cyberspace, and from there, it moves to the digital area of ​​Germany. The president of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Arne Schönbohm, told DW: “In view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the BSI confirms once again that there is a greater threat to Germany.” Schönbohm calls on companies, organizations and authorities to review their internet security measures and adapt them to the current situation.

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However, there are also cyberattacks with serious consequences for citizens. Martina Link spoke about the Anhalt-Bitterfeld district in Saxony-Anhalt, where in July 2021 hackers attacked local government offices with ransomware. Social benefits could not be paid and automobile circulation permits could not be issued, among other things. It was the first case of digital blackmail in Germany.

The BKA recorded an increase in cybercrime cases by 12 percent, almost 150,000 more cases. Experts, on the other hand, believe that the number of attacks is even higher. The digital association Bitkom conducted a survey of 1,000 companies from all sectors, and nine out of ten said they were victims of cyber attacks. According to Bitkom, the damage from theft, espionage and sabotage to the German economy amounts to 223 billion euros, a figure that coincides with information from Martina Link, from the BKA, and which has doubled in just two years.

Martina Link listed several reasons for the “significant increase in cases: the coronavirus pandemic has driven digitization, which has created new opportunities for cybercrime. At the same time, the illegal digital economy has further advanced. There is also a powerful economy of criminal services, which offers everything that criminals need in the illegal markets: from bot networks and credit card data, to criminal programs, which can be bought with bitcoins, the clearance rate of those crimes is only about 30 percent, below the average for police crime statistics.

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Martina Link is committed to collaboration with foreign authorities, due to the increase in international criminal networks, since this cooperation “has developed very positively in recent years.”

What worries the BKA Vice President is that it has become more difficult to differentiate hackers controlled by certain countries, from those hackers common. At the end of February, at least 3,000 wind turbines in Germany could not be used by remote control. The wind turbines were connected to the grid through a satellite provider, but this was hacked on February 24, the day the war in Ukraine began. This was possibly because the Ukrainian authorities and the Army used the same provider.

According to the summer 2021 annual report of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, “Russian intelligence services make extensive use of cyber attacks, which are used for calculations of Russia’s geopolitical power.”

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