'Snake' Virus Targets Ukraine Computer Networks

Sunday, 09 Mar 2014 09:43 PM

By Greg Richter

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Attacks from a computer virus believed to be from Russia have been growing, and the main target is Ukrainian computer networks, The Financial Times reports.

The virus is known as "Snake," or "Ouroboros," the snake in Greek mythology that swallowed its own tail. Its complexity is similar to that of the Stuxnet virus that was found in 2010 to have ruined part of Iran's nuclear centrifuge.

Stuxnet is believed to have been created by American and Israeli intelligence. The Russian government is believed to be behind Snake.

Attacks began early in 2013 and increased at the beginning of this year just as Ukrainians began protesting the Moscow-aligned government.

According to The Financial Times, Snake gives its operators "unfettered access to networks for surveillance purposes" and also can act as an advanced "digital beachhead" destroying computer networks and affecting the public.

While Snake's origins are not clear, clues in the code indicate it was developed in Moscow's time zone, the Times reports. And parts of the code use Russian text.

It also appears to be an upgrade of the Agent.BTZ attack that hit U.S. military systems in 2008.

Snake is too sophisticated to have been written by an individual or company not related to a state, the Times reports.

Fifty-six apparent infections have been identified, most in the past 14 months. Thirty-two of those had Ukraine as the primary target, and 22 of those instances have been since January 2013.

"You never get beyond reasonable doubt levels of proof in this area but if you look at it in probabilistic terms – who benefits and who has the resources – then the list of suspects boils down to one," Nigel Inkste of the think tank IISS told The Times.

"Until recently the Russians have kept a low profile, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they can do the full scope of cyber attacks, from denial of service to the very, very sophisticated."

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