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Ukraine computers targeted by aggressive ‘Snake’ virus

Ukraine computers targeted by aggressive ‘Snake’ virus

Published March 09, 2014

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Dozens of Ukrainian computer networks, including those run by the Kiev government, have been infected by an aggressive virus known as “Snake” or “Ouroboros,” and experts say that there’s every chance that Russia is behind it.

The Financial Times reported that the virus has been deployed aggressively since the start of 2013. The paper cited information from British defense and security firm BAE Systems, which recorded 22 infections of Ukrainian computer systems by “Snake” since the start of 2013. Of those, 14 have occurred since the start of 2014, while protests raged against President Viktor Yanukovych’s government. In all, 56 computer systems around the world have been infected by “Snake” since 2010. Almost all of the incidents have taken place since the beginning of last year.

The Financial Times reported that the virus not only allows its employer access to computer networks for surveillance purposes, but can also act as a “digital beachhead” for software that can disrupt vital computer networks, such as those that control power supplies for banking operations.

Identifying where a computer virus specifically originated from is difficult to do, but the Financial Times reported that “Snake” appears to have been developed somewhere in the GMT +4 time zone, which encompasses Moscow. The paper also reported that parts of the code contain Russian text.

David Garfield, managing director of cyber security at BAE, told the paper that the recorded instances were likely “the tip of the iceberg.” Garfield also said that the complexity of the “Snake” program ruled out a rogue hacker, saying “Whoever made it really is a very professional outfit.”

Nigel Inkster, a former director of intelligence and operations for MI6, Britain’s international intelligence agency, was more specific with his suspicions, telling the paper, “If you look at it in probabilistic terms – who benefits and who has the resources – then the list of suspects boils down to one … Until recently the Russians have kept a low profile, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they can do the full scope of cyber attacks, from denial of service to the very, very sophisticated.”

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