Russian nation-state actors blamed for cyber attacks against Irish energy networks

Pierluigi Paganini July 17, 2017

Irish energy networks have been targeted by spear phishing attacks, Russian nation-state actors are the prime suspects for the cyber attacks.

Hackers have targeted Irish energy networks, senior engineers at the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which supplies both Northern Ireland and the Republic, were targeted by spear phishing messages allegedly sent by a Russian threat actor linked to Russia’s GRU intelligence agency.

The news was reported by The Times, sources close to the newspaper confirmed that Russian nation state actors launched the attack to compromise control systems and take over the electricity grid.

“Hackers backed by the Russian government have attacked energy networks running the national grid in parts of the UK, The Times has learnt.” reported The Times.

“The hackers, who targeted the Republic of Ireland’s energy sector, intended to infiltrate control systems, security analysts believe. This would also have given them the power to knock out parts of the grid in Northern Ireland.”

Russian nation-state actors target ireland

Why Ireland?

Security experts believe that GRU hackers were testing their cyber capabilities against the country infrastructure. The nation state hackers may have been interested in destabilizing the country that also hosts European headquarters of IT giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook.  US officials confirmed last week that Russian government hacking teams penetrated American nuclear and other energy companies.

The Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre is investigating the cyber attack that according to the experts aimed to steal information and gather intelligence instead having sabotage purposes.

The news about the attack against the Irish energy networks was disclosed shortly after the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a joint alert to the energy sector warning of cyber attacks powered by Russian nation state actors against the US nuclear power plants.

According to the alert,  “advanced, persistent threat actors” used spear phishing message to steal login credentials to access networks of companies in the energy industry,

According to a report on vulnerabilities in British defence released by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) earlier this month, the threat of cyber attacks continues to grow especially for Western satellite infrastructures. Military and civilian communications and GPS system could be targeted by hackers with a significant impact on the economy of the country.

Of course, Russia denied state-sponsored hackers have been involved in attacks against Western governments or Ukraine. President Putin blamed patriotic Russian hackers, for the interference with the 2016 Presidential Election.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Russian nation-state actors, Ireland)

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