Russian hackers hijack satellites and energy companies

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

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The modern “Cold War” is fought online, with countries attacking each other through hackers instead of combat soldiers.

The Cold War from 1946-1991 between the USA and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Russia) was marked by intense competition over global political influence, nuclear weapons stockpiling, and technological advances. Although the USSR fell apart and the Cold War came to an end in 1991, Russia still competes with Western powers like the USA, Britain, and the European Union for political control of countries like Ukraine and Syria. Now, Russia’s “Energetic Bear” hacking operation attacks Western satellites, businesses, and energy companies in a cyber Cold War .

Symantec, a high-tech security firm, released a report that Russia has been stealing information from energy companies using “malware” – a type of software that damages or disables computer systems. Hackers are apparently breaking into systems responsible for managing gas pipelines, energy grids, power plants, and industrial equipment. Their main targets have been the USA and Spain, as well as other European nations. Although most of the cyber break-ins resulted in stolen passwords, usernames, and files, some of the hackers managed to hijack controls, meaning they could disrupt energy supplies if they wanted.

These aren’t just amateurs messing around in a garage somewhere, either, since security experts point out that the attacks are carried out with highly-coordinated military precision. Russia’s government refuses to comment on the situation, but evidence seems to indicate that these hackers work on behalf of Russian spies and state-owned gas companies like Gazprom and Rosneft.

Cyber experts believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin sponsors spy gangs like Turla, which also goes by such Bond villain names as Uroboros, Snake, and Carbon. This legion of masked online bandits has managed to break into the military and government agencies of over 40 countries! Sheesh.

Russia isn’t alone in the global cyber-fest that’s making traditional ground fighting look so last century. It’s neighbor and close friend on the Asian continent, China, has also been accused by the USA’s government of stealing billions of dollars of information. See, when a company develops high-tech advances, it can protect its ideas legally by claiming ownership of them as “intellectual property”, so that no one else can profit from their inventions. When hackers steal this valuable information, they weaken the economy of other countries and rob companies of their hard work.

Featured image courtesy of Walter Siegmund on Wikipedia. Image of cyber attack courtesy of marsmet tallahassee on Flickr.