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The Federal Bureau of Investigation wrested control of thousands of routers and firewalls from Russian military hackers by hijacking the same devices Moscow spies had used to set up a “botnet” – a network of hacked computers that can bombard other servers with malicious bots. circulation.
“Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.
The FBI carried out the court-authorized operation in March 2022, disrupting a two-tier global botnet of thousands of infected network hardware devices under the control of a threat actor known as Sandworm, which the US government attributed previously at the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (the GRU, successor to the Soviet-era KGB), the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
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The operation copied and removed malware from the firewall devices that Sandworm used for command and control of the botnet. Although the operation did not access the Sandworm malware on the underlying victim devices, disabling the command and control mechanism separated the bots from controlling the Sandworm devices, disrupting the Russian military hacking operation.
“Through close collaboration with WatchGuard [Technologies Inc.] and our law enforcement partners, we have identified, disrupted and exposed yet another example of the Russian GRU’s hacking of innocent victims in the United States and around the world,” said U.S. Attorney Cindy K. Chung of the Western District of Pennsylvania in a statement.
“Such activities are not only criminal but also threaten the national security of the United States and its allies,” Chung added. “My office remains committed to working with our partners at the National Security Division, the FBI, foreign law enforcement, and the private sector to defend and maintain our nation’s cybersecurity.”
“The FBI is proud to work closely with our law enforcement and private sector partners to expose the criminals who hide behind their computers and launch attacks that threaten the safety, security, and trust of Americans in our digitally connected world,” Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office said in a statement. “The FBI has an unwavering commitment to combat and disrupt Russian efforts to gain a foothold inside US and allied networks.”
The malware involved, Cyclops Blink, targets network devices manufactured by WatchGuard Technologies Inc. and ASUSTek Computer Inc.
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While the FBI operation managed to copy and remove the malware from all remaining identified command-and-control devices and blocked Sandworm from accessing those devices, the WatchGuard and ASUS devices that acted as bots may remain vulnerable to Sandworm if device owners do not take the WatchGuard and ASUS recommended detection and remediation steps, the DOJ warned. The department urged network advocates and device owners to review the department’s Feb. 23 advisory and guidance documents issued by WatchGuard and ASUS.
The operation took place nearly a month after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Late last month, Ukrainian intelligence released an alleged list of more than 600 Russian spies. Shortly before that, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have put two FSB agents who allegedly scouted Ukraine under house arrest after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved far more difficult than Putin seemed to have initially envisioned.
Representative Ritchie Torres, D.N.Y., called the FBI to investigate the Russian diplomatic compound, located in New York, which experts have previously said Fox News Digital harbors diplomats who are in the United States to spy on America.
“We were appalled and alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. We were appalled by his war crimes against the Ukrainian people, and it is in this context that I officially request the FBI to investigate reports of espionage at the Russian diplomatic compound,” Torres told reporters Tuesday of the White Tower. located at 355 West 255th Streetin the borough of the Bronx.
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The Bronx Democrat called it “both metaphorically and literally an oversight structure.”