Hackers attack Belarus railway to disrupt Russian military and defend democracy

A group of hackers said earlier this week that they had infiltrated Belarus' state-run railway network in an effort to "stop" the movement of Russian troops in the country. The hacktivists, who call themselves Belarusian Cyber-Partisans, announced the ransomware cyberattack in posts on Twitter and Telegram.

In their messages, they said they encrypted some of the railroad's "servers, databases and workstations" because it facilitates the movement of "occupying troops to enter our land." The decryption key would only be provided then if Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stopped helping Russian troops ahead of a possible invasion of Ukraine.

The group said it would return the network to "normal mode" in exchange for the release of 50 political prisoners in need of medical care. In addition, the hackers asked for the Russian military to be prevented from entering Belarus.

On the social network and on Telegram, the hackers also showed numerous images that appear to be from environments within the private network of the Belarusian railway. Several services on the site were affected, including online ticket purchases. A representative of the hacktivists said that in addition to ticketing and scheduling, the cyberattack also affected freight trains.

Democracy in Belarus and human rights

The hacker group said the government “continues to suppress the free will of Belarusians, imprison innocent people, they continue to illegally hold… thousands of political prisoners”. The main objective, for the Cyber-Partisans, “is to overthrow the Lukashenko regime, maintain sovereignty and build a democratic state with the rule of law, independent institutions and protection of human rights,” the representative wrote.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Monday (24/01) that Russian troops were already arriving in the country ahead of a training operation in February. Belarus shares borders with Ukraine and Russia, and the exercise raised fears in the West related to Russian troops and equipment being deployed along Ukraine's northern border near the capital Kiev.

According to reports, Russia has been sending military equipment and personnel by rail to Belarus. On Telegram, a group of Belarusian railway workers tracking activity on the 5,512 km railway said on Friday (21/01) that in a week, more than 33 Russian military trains loaded with equipment and troops arrived in Belarus for exercises. joint strategies.

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Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade, principal threat researcher at security firm SentinelOne, said he was unable to confirm the ransomware attack. However, the images provided seemed to confirm that someone had gained privileged access to the Belarusian railway network.

“At face value, it's an interesting turn in the ransomware narrative,” he said in an interview. “Most of the time, we think of ransomware as a financial concern for businesses rather than a tool for the downtrodden in what amounts to a revolutionary struggle.”

The Cyber-Partisans representative said that accessing the Belarusian rail network was not difficult. "This network has many entry points and is not well isolated from the internet." According to him, the group entered through one of these points and then opened many other entry points.

Andrew Reddie, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Information, said that "critical infrastructure, in Belarus and around the world, represents an easy target for ransomware attacks." But Reddie added that it is still too early for cybersecurity researchers to definitively confirm the attack.

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Via The Washington Post and Ars Technica

Image: ds_30/Pixabay/CC

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