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SpiderLabs Blog

Ukrainian Intelligence Claims Successful Compromise of the Russian Ministry of Defense

On March 4, 2024, the Telegram channel of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (GUR) was updated with assertions that they executed a successful cyberattack against the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

GUR-telegram

Figure 1: MDI of MDU (GUR) telegram channel, statement claims a
successful cyberattack against the MoD of the Russian Federation

 

The post states that cyber specialists from Ukraine’s GUR successfully hacked into the Ministry of Defense of Russia, acquiring sensitive information, including encryption software, confidential documents, and other official communications circulated among more than 2,000 structural units and departments in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. The data enabled the identification of key personnel and the establishment of the organizational structure of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

 

gru-website

Figure 2: The website of MDI of MDU (GUR), sample illustrating the
structure of military units and its subunits

 

Ukraine's GUR also claimed to have stolen working documents belonging to Deputy Minister of Defense Timur Vadimovich Ivanov. According to the statement, Ivanov's "involvement" was critical to the cyber operation's success, suggesting that phishing may have been involved in the attack.

gru-website-2

Figure 3: The website of MDI of MDU (GUR), sample illustrating content of the table task_type
claimed to be obtained from MoD of Russian Federation servers

 

Ukraine’s GRU also claimed to have accessed a Russian-based electronic document management system called ИВК «Бюрократ» (IVK "Bureaucrat"). It is commonly employed in various government and bureaucratic organizations in Russia to handle official documents, including orders, reports, memos, and other administrative paperwork. The system is designed to streamline document workflows, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance with organizational procedures and regulations. This suggests that the GUR gained access to critical systems and documents integral to the Russian government or military operations.

 

gru-website-3

Figure 4: The website of MDI of MDU (GUR), sample illustrating documentation collected
during the cyber attack

 

At the time of writing, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation did not comment on this event. However, several Russian-friendly news feeds, like lapsha.media, pikabu.ru, and Russian Reddit, discussed Ukraine's GUR’s claims, arguing that they are fake.


lapsha-media-website

Figure 5: Lapsha.media website, a publication about GUR statement marked with
many tags containing the word “fake”

 

Lapsha.media is a Russian-language website dedicated to debunking misinformation and exposing fake news propagated by so-called "fake fighters." No publicly available information suggests that Lapsha.media is directly associated with the Russian government. As with any media outlet, it's essential to critically evaluate the information provided and consider multiple sources of information.

The Lapsha.media presents several arguments suggesting that the claim of Ukraine’s GRU claims are fake, including:

  • The "secret service documents" allegedly obtained by the GUR of Ukraine are old files related to the development of the electronic document management system IVK "Bureaucrat" before its implementation in the ministry's operations. These files are publicly accessible and do not contain critical information.

lapsha-media-website-2

Figure 6: Lapsha.media website, illustrates the presence of the newer 2021 version in public access

 

  • The label "Letter O" indicates that the documentation is an intermediate version, subject to potential changes before finalization.

gru-website-4

Figure 7: The website of MDI of MDU (GUR), a part of the sample illustrating arguments and claims of lapsha.media author

  • The screenshot provided by Ukraine’s GRU purportedly shows an "address database," which contains repeating values such as "101111100." Those false values appear to be placeholders rather than actual addresses.
  • The author emphasizes that the Russian Ministry of Defense’s servers, where document management occurs, are not connected to the internet in accordance with information security requirements. Therefore, they argue that hackers cannot breach these servers.

Overall, the author suggests that the evidence provided by Ukraine’s GRU does not support the hacking claim.

gru-viber-channel

Figure 8: The Viber channel of MDI of MDU (GUR), 5 Mar 2024, Informs that website of Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation still down

 

“As of March 5, 2024, the official website of the enemy's law enforcement agency is still "down". The official Ukraine’s GUR’s website states.

Considering that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has not commented on previous statements made by Ukraine’s GUR, it is challenging to prove the veracity of these claims. However, it's important to acknowledge that Ukraine’s GUR comprises highly skilled professionals supported by allies from the US and EU.

Whether these claims are true or simply war propaganda, they underscore the evolving nature of warfare, in which cyber operations play an increasingly pivotal role.

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