A Russian hacker group has claimed responsibility for a distributed denial of service attack targeting state and private organizations in Lithuania.
According to a report today in the Baltic Times, the attack by a group known as “Killnet” has caused delays in the processing of passports and residence permits by the Lithuanian Migration Service. Other authorities and companies in the communications and financial sectors also suffered from temporary service disruptions.
The cyberattacks follow a decision by Lithuania to restrict the transit of steel and ferrous metals to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea that is only accessible by land via Lithuania or Poland. Lithuania restricted goods over European Union sanctions, but the decision enraged the Kremlin, which denounced the move as unprecedented and unlawful.
A Killnet spokesman told Reuters that the DDoS attack was a direct response to Lithuania’s decision to block the transit of sanctioned goods. “The attack will continue until Lithuania lifts the blockade,” the spokesman said. “We destroyed 1,652 web resources. And that’s just so far.”
The figure of 1,652 “web resources” destroyed was not supported by any evidence. Jonas Skardinskas, director of the Lithuanian National Cybersecurity Center, told Yahoo News that the attacks are already “contained” but warned that “it is very likely that attacks of a similar or higher intensity will continue in the coming days, particularly in the transport sector, energy and finance sectors.”
Attacks from Russia have been numerous since the invasion of Ukraine began, including an attack on the Viasat satellite service in February. On June 22, Microsoft Corp. fear that Russian hacking against allied governments – Lithuania is a member of NATO – will continue to increase.
“Every major military power in the world has developed cyber capabilities,” Chris Clymer, director and chief information security officer at cybersecurity risk management provider Inversion6, told SiliconANGLE. “These have evolved from spy tools into full-fledged weapons used as part of a coordinated military response.”
Directing such a target at another country is arguably an act of war, but one less serious than kinetic missile and tank attacks, Clymer explained. “Russia has a collection of theoretically autonomous groups like Killnet that give it the ability to attack its enemies while still denying responsibility — not a new tactic,” he said.
Clymer noted that Lithuania was not Killnet’s first target, as the hacker gang had previously also targeted Romania, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Italy.
“This harassment will continue, and what’s even more interesting is that it doesn’t appear to have targeted the US and major European powers as heavily as initially anticipated,” Clymer added. “With what we know about the internet infrastructure, it’s hard to believe it’s because those targets are stronger. Maybe the Russians are trying to focus on targets they think they can afford to fight.”