Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime

Russian Nuisance Hacking Group KillNet Targets Germany

Berlin Pledges Leopard 2 Tanks for Ukraine, Provoking Passing DDoS Attacks
Russian Nuisance Hacking Group KillNet Targets Germany
Polish army Leopard 2A tanks just before multinational training exercises in Eastern Europe on May 14, 2022 (Image: U.S. Army Capt. Tobias Cukale/DOD)

Pro-Kremlin nuisance hacking group KillNet temporarily disrupted access to websites of German government agencies, airports and financial institutions in retaliation for Berlin's decision to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Wednesday that Germany will supply the advanced battle tank, after weeks of pressure from NATO allies ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive against Ukrainian defenders this spring. Germany will initially deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks and will allow other countries, such as Poland, to send German-made tanks from their stockpiles. The Leopard 2 is a significant upgrade from the Soviet-era T-72 tanks that have been a mainstay of the Ukrainian army. The United States has also pledged 31 M1A2 Abrams tanks, although U.S. officials have couched the delivery as a long-term commitment rather than an immediate boost to the Ukrainian army.

The German Federal Office for Information Security, known as BSI, told Information Security Media Group that KillNet's distributed denial-of-service attacks had little effect.

"The BSI has no indications of any direct impact on the respective service and does not expect this to happen if the usual protective measures against DDoS attacks are taken," a spokesperson said.

KillNet is among a handful of Russian cybercrime groups that openly pledged allegiance to Moscow. The group, whose name comes from a tool used to launch DDoS attacks, has initiated a slew of them against Western targets in the 11 months since Russia escalated its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The attacks have proved more irritating than dangerous.

The group on its Telegram channel reacted to Scholz's announcement by attempting to rally other pro-Kremlin hackers into launching a "full-scale cyberattack" and to tag their efforts with the hashtag "GermanyRIP."

The group's activity did manage to provoke a reaction from Canada. The agency that oversees federal agency cybersecurity called for a "heightened state of vigilance" following a pledge from the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ship four Leopard 2 tanks from its inventory to Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Communications Security Establishment told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that the agency is aware of Russian state-aligned hacktivist groups seeking to compromise Ukrainian allies.

"CSE is reminding the Canadian cybersecurity community to adopt a heightened state of vigilance and to bolster their awareness of and protection against malicious cyberthreats," the spokesperson said.

About the Author

Mihir Bagwe

Mihir Bagwe

Principal Correspondent, Global News Desk, ISMG

Bagwe previously worked at CISO magazine, reporting the latest cybersecurity news and trends and interviewing cybersecurity subject matter experts.

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