‘KillNet’ Russian hacktivist group targeting US, UK health info in Ukraine revenge: HHS HC3 report

Warnings about DDoS (distributed denial of service) ramped up at the end of last year–only three weeks ago. Here’s one reason why.KillNet” is a pro-Russian hacktivist (hackers who advance a cause) group that recently claimed responsibility for DDoS attacks as payback for US and UK military support of Ukraine. A senior member of KillNet with the nom de guerre Killmilk has threatened the US in general “with the sale of the health and personal data of the American people because of the Ukraine policy of the US Congress”. 

The US Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3)’s Analyst Note (link to PDF) gave two examples of KillNet claims:

  • A “US-based healthcare organization that supports members of the US military and claimed to possess a large amount of user data from that organization”
  • Hacking threats against the NHS, specifically ventilators in hospitals and the Ministry of Health. This was in reaction to the May 2022 arrest of a 23-year-old alleged KillNet member accused of being connected to attacks on Romanian government websites. KillNet demanded his release in return for not attacking. Daily Mail  

Other institutions are hardly exempt. In the UK, KillNet DDoS attacks in November reportedly affected Bankers Automated Clearing Service (BACS), the London Stock Exchange, and the official website of the Prince of Wales. Computer Weekly

DDoS attacks are their leading weapon. KillNet uses publicly available DDoS scripts and IP stressers for most of its operations although it has its own. Before aligning with Russian state interests, it was a hacking-for-hire operation available for $1,350 per month, including a single botnet with a capacity of 500GB per second and 15 computers. This Editor noted previously that DDoS attacks may be a convenient cover or smokescreen for other cybercrime activity. While IT goes into crisis mode over the DDoS, other attacks and information gathering on systems preparing for future attacks may be taking place. [TTA 22 Dec 22].

This updates an earlier Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) jointly issued by the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand (the Five Eyes group), that broadly assessed multiple threats from Russian state organizations such as the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), as well as cybercrime groups like KillNet which have aligned themselves for the duration with Russia. KillNet has grown over the past year and now has subgroups organized under Cyber Special Forces of the Russian Federation and LEGION 2.0. SOC Radar

The best defense is a good offense. HC3’s advice on preparation to mitigate a DDoS threat includes enabling web application firewalls to mitigate application-level DDoS attacks and implementing a multi-content delivery network (CDN) solution to minimize the threat of DDoS attacks by distributing and balancing web traffic across a network. The HC3 Analyst Note is heavily footnoted with other sources for additional incidents. SC Media, Cybernews

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