Russia says its banks are being targeted by foreign hackers

A view of the domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow on Nov. 10. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)
A view of the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow on Nov. 10. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

MOSCOW — While the United States has accused Russia of using hackers to undermine the 2016 elections, Russian officials have said: “We’re under attack, too.” It could be misdirection, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false.

On Friday, Russia’s Federal Security Service, the KGB successor that handles everything from counterintelligence to corruption cases, said it had discovered foreign plans to attack Russia’s banking system with messages saying that banks were insolvent, in a coordinated attack involving hackers and social media. The agency did not release any evidence, but it said it was set to start on Monday.

“It was planned that the cyberattack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals,” an FSB statement said, according to a Reuters translation. The agency said it was taking action to “neutralize threats to Russia’s economic and information security.”

The statement did not say which foreign agencies were suspected in the alleged attack, but servers tied to a Ukrainian company, BlazingFast, were involved. A director for BlazingFast, Anton Onoprichuk, told Reuters that no one from the FSB or any other intelligence agency had contacted the Kiev-based firm.

Also Friday, Russia’s Central Bank released an annual report in which it announced that cyberthieves had hacked into accounts by faking a client’s credentials and stolen more than 2 billion rubles, or $31 million dollars earlier in 2016. According to Reuters, Artyom Sychyov, a Central Bank official, told reporters that the hackers had attempted to steal about 5 billion rubles, or $78 million.

This summer, the United States accused the Russian government of being involved in the hacking of computers at the Democratic National Committee. Other hacks were also alleged to be tied to Russia, including the disclosure of emails belonging to Hillary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta. Vice President Biden said that the United States would issue a “proportional” response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential elections.

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