Champions League final 2018: Real Madrid vs Liverpool under threat from cyber attackers

Cisco says a series of cyberattacks have focused on Ukraine

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 24 May 2018 08:14
Liverpool's Champions League campaign in numbers

Liverpool's Champions League final with Real Madrid in Kiev could be disrupted by Russian cyber attackers, Ukrainian officials have warned.

“Security Service experts believe that the infection of hardware on the territory of Ukraine is preparation for another act of cyber-aggression by the Russian Federation, aimed at destabilising the situation during the Champions League final,” the Ukrainian security services said in a statement.

As Ukrainian authorities issued their warning, Cisco Systems announced that its cybersecurity unit Talos had uncovered a malware attack affecting some 500,000 routers.

The malware system known as “VPNFilter” shared code with versions of a separate cyber weapon that was behind multiple large-scale attacks in Ukraine, Talos said, and VPNFilter has been “actively infecting Ukrainian hosts at an alarming rate”. Infections spiked this month, and almost all of the new victims were located in Ukraine.

While the bulletin from Talos did not explicitly mention Russia, it said the malware was likely being deployed by “state-sponsored or state-affiliated” actors. Cisco researcher Craig Williams told Reuters he had “high confidence” the Russia government was behind the attacks.

The threat extends beyond Ukraine, Talos said, with devices estimated to have been infected in 54 different countries.

But the possibility of an assault on Ukrainian devices coinciding with a globally watched football match could have broad implications.

A conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists has been smouldering for years and led Russia to annex the Crimea, which was formerly part of Ukrainian territory.

1 in 6 children now living in areas affected by conflict: 9-year-old Denis from Eastern Ukraine tells of home being bombed

American intelligence officials have concluded that Kremlin-directed hacking formed part of a broad Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, and they have warned that Russia is likely to target upcoming midterm elections as well.

Russian-backed operatives targeted voting systems in a number of states during the 2016 election, intelligence officials have said. Earlier this year, the Trump administration faulted Russia for cyberattacks on US energy infrastructure.

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