February 6, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Russian hackers target US nuclear research laboratories | abroad

A Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the United States last summer. This is evidenced by the data that the Reuters news agency and five cybersecurity experts were able to study.

Days after Vladimir Putin indicated that Russia would be willing to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory, Cold River targeted Brookhaven (BNL), Argonne (ANL), and Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) National Laboratories. Both of these laboratories are engaged in nuclear research. The hackers created fake login pages for each institute and also emailed the scholars to get their passwords.

Reuters presented its findings to five industry experts who confirmed Cold River’s involvement in attempts to penetrate the nuclear plant. This was achieved on the basis of shared digital fingerprints that researchers have associated with the group in the past.

Reuters was unable to determine why the laboratories were targeted or whether the attempted break-in was successful. The three research centers also declined to comment.

Cold River has ramped up its hacking campaign against Kyiv’s allies since the invasion of Ukraine, cybersecurity experts and Western government officials know. The digital attack on American laboratories occurred when United Nations experts entered Ukraine to assess risks in Zaporizhia, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. In that area, shooting was happening all the time.

“One of the most important hacker groups”

Cold River, which first appeared on the radar of intelligence agencies after attacking the UK Foreign Office in 2016, has been involved in dozens of other high-profile hacking incidents in recent years. “This is one of the most important hacker groups you’ve never heard of,” Adam Myers, of US cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, told The Guardian. “They are involved in direct support of the Kremlin’s information operations.”

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Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which also runs spying campaigns for Moscow, and the Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to emailed requests for comment from Reuters. Western officials say the Russian government is a world leader in hacking and uses cyber espionage to spy on foreign governments and industries to gain a competitive advantage. However, Moscow has consistently denied that it is carrying out hacking operations.