Microsoft on Thursday said it has attempted to disrupt cyberattacks launched by the Russian government against Ukraine by seizing some of the domains leveraged by a notorious state-sponsored threat group.
Microsoft said it seized seven domains used by the group known as Strontium, APT28, Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, Sednit, and Tsar Team. The cyberespionage group, linked to Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, has conducted operations targeting many organizations around the world over the past years.
The tech giant obtained a court order on April 6 that allowed it to sinkhole the domains, which had allegedly been used to target media and other organizations in Ukraine. Government institutions and think tanks in the US and the EU — particularly ones involved in foreign policy — were also targeted, the company said.
“We believe Strontium was attempting to establish long-term access to the systems of its targets, provide tactical support for the physical invasion and exfiltrate sensitive information,” Microsoft explained.
The company has observed nearly all of Russia’s state-sponsored groups launching what it described as a “full-scale offensive against Ukraine’s government and critical infrastructure.”
Microsoft claims to have seized more than 100 domains used by Strontium since 2016, after establishing a legal process that enables it to quickly obtain court orders.
The news comes just days after the US government announced that it had neutralized Cyclops Blink, a massive botnet believed to be controlled by Russia’s GRU. The botnet, powered by hacked firewall appliances and SOHO networking devices, was allegedly disabled in March, when authorities targeted its command and control (C&C) infrastructure.
The US government has issued several warnings regarding Russian cyber threats since the conflict with Ukraine started to escalate in late 2021.
Fears of Russian attacks have also resulted in new legislation aimed at strengthening the cybersecurity of US critical infrastructure and government networks.