On the attack: Ukraine forms an ‘IT army’, Nvidia hacks back


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It’s not directly related to the emerging cyber resistance to Russia in Ukraine, but reports that Nvidia turned the tables in a ransomware incident this week seem to be resonating.

Both the Nvidia case and Ukraine’s attempt to launch a cyber offensive against Russia share a common theme of holding out and pushing back against aggressors — be they power-hungry nation-states or cybercriminals.

Today in Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, the country’s deputy prime minister, announced on Twitter: “We are creating an IT army.”

“We need digital talents,” wrote Fedorov, who also holds the title of minister of digital transformation – he shared a link to a Telegram channel where he said operational tasks will be shared. “We will continue to fight on the cyber front.”

On the Telegram channel, the IT army Reportedly posted his list of Russian targets – which were also translated into English “for all IT specialists from other countries”.

Anonymous is the most visible group promising a cyber offensive against Russia on behalf of Ukraine, but some of the most sophisticated hacker groups have been known to avoid attention as much as possible – including some that are believed to have ties to the US and Western countries.

On Friday, Christian Sorensen, a former US Cyber ​​Command official, told VentureBeat that “hacktivists around the world [will be] work against Russia because they are the aggressor.”

“I think cases against Western targets will increase, but Russia and Belarus will be even more targeted by these groups,” said Sorensen, formerly the leader of the US Cyber ​​Command’s operational planning team.

Hack back

Meanwhile, a ransomware gang that claimed to have attacked Nvidia would also post a message that the chipmaker had hacked back.

The group, Lapsus$, said on its Telegram channel that 1TB of data has been deleted by Nvidia, according to screenshots shared by Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft. The ransomware group, believed to be active in South America, also said Nvidia had encrypted the group’s data (although the group says it had a backup), according to the screenshots.

Nvidia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

On Friday, a spokesperson said Nvidia is “investigating an incident” and is “still evaluating the nature and scope of the event.”

“Our business and commercial activities will continue uninterrupted,” the Nvidia spokesperson said in the statement.

The statement came in response to a Friday report in The Telegraph that Nvidia, one of the largest producers of graphics chips, was investigating “a possible cyber attack that took parts of its company offline for two days”.

Citing an unnamed “insider” at Nvidia, The Telegraph reported that the potential cyberattack had “completely compromised the company’s internal systems” — “although some email services were working on Friday,” the report said.

Preventing Leaks

Hacking back is “unusual, but certainly not unheard of,” Callow said in a message to VentureBeat. Often the goal is to prevent leaks of stolen data, he said.

“I would not assume any connection to the conflict” in Ukraine, Callow added.

Still, you can’t help but notice a common theme in terms of pushing back against cyber-attacks.

Russian cyber offensives have already played a part in building the country towards its attack on Ukraine this week. Authorities in the US and UK blamed Russia for last week’s massive Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks in Ukraine. New DDoS attacks, as well as destructive cyber attacks involving wiper malware, hit Ukraine just before the invasion on Wednesday.

But on Friday a Bloomberg report said a hacker group now forming to launch counter-attacks against Russia had gathered 500 members. And today we have the announcement of the Ukrainian IT military — possibly including help from hackers around the world.

“Sanctioned or not, official or not, if people have or can get the right information, know-how and desire, they can make an impact,” Sorensen said Friday, ahead of the Ukrainian IT military’s announcement. “We’ll have to wait and see what they can do.”

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