Global cyberthreat advisory: Russia’s attack on Ukraine 

About the Threat  

As part of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, new data wiper malware, HermeticWiper, has infected hundreds of devices in Ukraine. Experts have predicted much larger cyberattacks from Russia than we are currently seeing, so this very well may be only the beginning of larger cyberwar efforts.

Difenda cybersecurity experts are actively monitoring the situation, 24×7, to ensure that Difenda Shield users are protected against any cyberthreats that may spill out of this conflict.

Know The Threats That Matter Right Now: Subscribe to receive insider threat intelligence from Difenda’s front line security analysts in our 24/7/365 SOC.

Technical threat overview:  

  • Before the ground invasion began, Ukraine cyber assets were attacked and compromised. Although attribution is always difficult with cyberattacks, security experts are highly confident that this activity is supported by Russian military units. Although media reporting suggests that the attacks did not directly come from Russian Military or Intelligence units, such as the GRU or SVR, it is highly likely that state-sponsored intermediaries or cut-outs were involved.
  • On 2/15/2022, the cyberattacks escalated. Several threat actors either aligned with or directed by Russian Military or Intelligence were observed attacking Ukrainian cyberspace. UNC1151, CozyBear, Sandworm, Turla, Free Civilian, Dev-0586, Electrum, and Gamaredon have all been identified as aggressors. 
  • The data-wiper infections were preceded by what the Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, says was the largest DDoS attack every launched against Ukraine. The DDoS attack targeted several official Ukrainian websites, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet of Ministers, and Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces, as well as two prominent banks.
  • This attack follows an earlier malware attack launched against Ukraine. In January 2022, cyberattackers used wiper malware disguised as ransomware. WhisperGate malware was used to deface Ukrainian government websites and brick devices.

What we are seeing:

Russian-backed threat actors that Difenda is monitoring and defending against: 

  • UNC1151(GhostWriter) – This is primarily an influence operations actor. The group harvests credentials that could be used for other penetrations and attacks. 

    To protect you, Difenda employs over 10 unique credential access analytics that are layered on top of Microsoft Defender’s robust analytics. 

  • Sandworm – This threat actor primarily targets industrial control systems with BlackEnergy malware. Of note, this threat actor is believed responsible for the attack in 2015 on Ukraine’s electrical grid. Introduction of BlackEnergy is typically through spearfishing with infected documents delivering the malware payload. 

    The first line of defense against BlackEnergy is two-factor authentication. There are some known attacks against two-factor authentication that Difenda is investigating and formulating into hunts.

  • Electrum – Security experts believe this group has direct ties to Sandworm. It is responsible for the December 2016 attack on Ukraine’s power grid. The attack compromised critical infrastructure in a substation in Kyiv, which resulted in large sections of the capital and its surrounding area being without electricity for more than one hour. Electrum deployed Win32/Industroyer malware, which uses industrial communication protocols to control substation switches and circuit breakers.

    Difenda is monitoring this group and formulating new hunts against it.

  • Turla – This group is similar to Sandworm with the difference being that Turla targets IT systems.

    As with BlackEnergy, two-factor authentication is the first, and most important, line of defense.
  • Free Civilian – This is mostly a darknet operator selling data stolen out of Ukraine through various data breaches.

    Difenda continuously monitors the darknet for these leaks.
  • Dev-0586 – This threat actor deploys decoy ransomware that is actually destructive malware.

    Microsoft currently recommends that you enable Controlled Folder Access to help protect against Dev-0586 attacks. Difenda clients who have Microsoft Defender for Endpoint automatically receive updated signatures and analytics.
  • ACTINIUM – This group (aka DEV-1057, aka Gamaredon) is actively tracked by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC). This group has been operational for nearly a decade, and according to MSTIC, in the past six months it has “observed ACTINIUM targeting organizations in Ukraine spanning government, military, non-government organizations (NGO), judiciary, law enforcement, and non-profit, with the primary intent of exfiltrating sensitive information, maintaining access, and using acquired access to move laterally into related organizations.”

    MSTIC has observed ACTINIUM operating out of Crimea, and the Ukrainian government has publicly attributed this group to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

    Since October 2021, ACTINIUM has been targeting phishing attacks at organizations responsible for emergency response and the security of Ukrainian territory, as well as organizations that would provide international and humanitarian aid to Ukraine during a crisis.

    MSTIC and Difenda experts are actively monitoring ACTINIUM and preparing new hunts.

What we Recommend:

The countermeasures listed above with each threat actor should be your first steps to protect against malware unleashed by Russia as part of its attack on Ukraine. The threats we are currently seeing are all variations on previous attacks. 

Be sure to doublecheck that patching is up to date and that vulnerability scans are planned and acted upon, regularly. 

What Difenda is doing:

Difenda continues to maintain a presence on the Dark Web to monitor for new and emergent threats and will provide updates through the Technical Account Managers that are assigned to clients throughout the duration of this event. 

About Difenda

Difenda is a privately held SecOps-as-a-Service company founded in 2008. It delivers 24/7/365 security operations backed by modernized PCI, SOC 2 Type II, and ISO 27001 certified Cyber Command Centers (C3). Difenda’s managed practice is powered solely on the Microsoft Security product platform and it holds the Gold Security Service Provider certification and an Advanced Specialization in Threat Protection with Microsoft. Alongside a fully integrated, modular platform, it provides a range of advisory and offensive security services to complement customer driven outcomes.


Speak to a Security expert today

Our Partners

Penetration Testing Whitepaper

Threat Intelligence

Subscribe to receive insider threat intelligence from Difenda’s front line security analysts in our 24/7/365 SOC.

Ken Perkins

Biography coming soon.

Deepak Khandekar

Coming soon.

Carlos Espinoza

Biography coming soon.

Sheldon Shaw

Biography coming soon.

Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Microsoft Partner Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is responsible for driving growth within our Microsoft Partnership. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on our customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Ian Miersch

Ian Miersch has energy to spare, and uses his eclectic background to make a positive mark on the cybersecurity industry. As Vice President of Finance & Human Resources, Ian Miersch is responsible for overseeing scalable business growth as Difenda expands throughout North America. But it is the way he does it that sets him apart. By leveraging his engineering background and critical thinking skills, he has been able to develop unique strategies that balance the company’s current business needs with its long-term growth plans. And the results of his unique background and drive mean that the company is growing in a fiscally responsible manner, all with the customer’s needs at the forefront.

With a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering, coupled with an MBA in Finance, both from McMaster University, Ian’s ability to analyze data and make informed decisions is augmented by his ability to understand all facets of the business. He has a holistic understanding of the craft, from operations to project delivery and management, to his niche in financial planning. Ian’s ten years of experience in the industry mean that he has seen it all, and knows how to create a dynamic team and manage the resources needed for success.

Outside of work, he uses his energy to help others through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, earning the Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

Ian also enjoys exploring and hiking with his three young children, exercising (so he can keep up with them), and reading professional development books. He is an avid but generally heartbroken fan of the Toronto sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptors.

Derek Nugent

Derek Nugent, Vice President, Revenue lives by the motto “Be early, be better.” Derek leads our Sales and Marketing team and is responsible for customer success, as well as pre-sales and sales enablement. His high energy level and creativity have built high performing teams, whether at the Herjavec Group, CDW, or in his current leadership role at Difenda.

After earning a Bachelor Administration and Management degree from the Academy of Learning, Derek started in the information technology industry in 2004 and transitioned to the cybersecurity industry in 2014. With so much experience in a wide-variety of roles, he is poised to take the team at Difenda to the next level.

He excels at leading revenue strategies, new market entry, partnership engagement, and customer acquisition and retention. His work ethic and interest in rising to the top motivate his sales teams, who respond well to his passion and zeal. Under his tutelage, they are able to achieve attractive lead generation, YOY growth, and sizable deals. Derek works tirelessly to build a better team, and his constituents follow his road to success, which ultimately leads to a rewarding experience for the customer.

Even when volunteering, Derek is all in. He was a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2005-2015, earning Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

And when he isn’t busy leading the team to the acme of sales, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, running, working out, watching thrillers, action and dramatic television shows

Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora, Difenda’s Founder and CEO has always been ahead of the curve in Technology and Cyber Security. After securing his engineering degree in Computer Science, he wrote his first mobile banking application when he was just 23 years old. This accomplishment certainly set him apart from the crowd and prepared him for a lifetime of innovation and success in his field. At just 25 years old, he was selected as the youngest Cyber Security Officer for one of the largest banks in Asia.

As a globetrotting young cyber security professional, Manoj was instrumental in designing cyber security infrastructure and controls for some of the largest institutions around the world. Depth of his expertise and passion to serve customers at the highest level of competence and integrity lead to Difenda. Founded in 2008, Difenda is a rapidly growing cybersecurity firm operating in North America and Asia.

As the CEO at Difenda, Manoj drives the strategic vision to protect our customers and enable our team members to deliver our services in line with core values- competence, integrity, and innovation. Currently one of Microsoft’s leading North American partners, Difenda reflects Manoj’ single-minded focus on our customers. Difenda is fully vested in success of its customers and takes pride in considering our success as a byproduct of our customers. Manoj has always been committed to building a great team and forging strong partnerships to serve our customers with standards that top our industry.

When he is not busy bringing cybersecurity to the world, Manoj enjoys playing golf and squash, and continues to travel the world.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

Andrew Hodges

Biography Coming Soon

Jeffry Jacob

Biography Coming Soon