The US is hunting down four alleged hackers it believes are involved in campaigns to compromise critical infrastructure worldwide – with South Africa reportedly on the hackers’ list of targets.
The alleged aim of the group was to undertake a sophisticated campaign to target and compromise and maintain persistent access to the networks of critical infrastructure and energy companies worldwide, the Daily Maverick reports, citing an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The FBI has reportedly linked three of the four accused – Pavel Aleksandrovich Akulov, Mihkail Mikhailovich Gavrilov, and Marat Valeryevich Tyukov – to operations targeting countries including South Africa.
“This group included global oil and gas firms, utility and electrical grid companies, nuclear power plants, renewable energy companies, consulting and engineering groups, and advanced technology firms,” it said.
The indictment did not name any South African entities or detail what happened to these, nor whether they were successfully targeted. These broad hacking activities allegedly occurred from July 2012 to November 2017.
Anna Collard, senior vice president at security firm KnowBe4 noted the majority of cybercriminals are economically motivated and apolitical, typically only interested in the money they can extort.
“The groups responsible for the extortion attacks against Transnet and Department of Justice last year are very likely among those,” she said.
Collard said that Russia as well as other major nation-states such as the US, Israel, and China, have invested extensive resources into their offensive cyber-capabilities for espionage or even cyber warfare reasons, spending millions of dollars and man-hours on the development of sophisticated hacking tools and techniques.
“The problem is not just the nation-state going on the offensive, but the fact that they are inadvertently feeding the cybercrime ecosystem. Cybercriminals gain access to these sophisticated tools once they are leaked and then use them for financial gain such as extortion.”