Western intelligence said to have hacked 'Russia's Google'

Credit REUTERS | Shamil Zhumatov

Credit REUTERS | Shamil Zhumatov

The search engine Yandex, often referred to as Russia's Google, was the target of a cyberattack that occurred late past year which was orchestrated by hackers working for Western intelligence agencies. The campaign involved the use of Regin malware and apparently aimed to gather information about the firm's user authentication practices, which the attackers could then utilize to target users.

Yandex spokesman Ilia Grabovski acknowledged the incident, although she declined to give more details.

Yandex, sometimes called Russia's Google, said June 27 it caught the attack at an early stage and "neutralized" it before any damage could be done. It also operates in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

The sources who described the attack to Reuters said the hackers appeared to be searching for technical information that could explain how Yandex authenticates user accounts. This particular strain of malware is known to be used by the Five Eyes nations as a result of Edward Snowden leaking classified NSA documents.

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The Intercept, along with two newspapers from the Netherlands and Belgium, linked a previous version of Regin with a computer attack on the Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom in 2013, blamed on the intelligence services of the United Kingdom and the NSA. USA security agencies declined to comment.

Security experts also claimed that some code used in the malware discovered by Yandex was not used in any other previously known cyber attack.

Russian internet search giant Yandex was reportedly hit with a malware attack past year. The White House National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment. And earlier this month, The New York Times reported that US Cyber Command has gotten more aggressive than ever against Russian Federation in the past year, placing "potentially crippling malware" in systems that control the country's electrical grid.

Moscow-based Yandex, listed on the NASDAQ in the United States and the Moscow Exchange, has come under tighter regulatory control by the Russian government after the passage of new internet laws. "We have seen different components of Regin in the past few months".

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