26th May 2018, Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is getting ready to host the UEFA Champions League final 2018 which features Liverpool and Real Madrid.
It was discovered that a dark cloud was looming ominously over the Ukraine in the time leading up to the final, and that wasn’t just the Liverpool fan’s gut feeling that something could go horribly wrong.
Cisco’s cybersecurity subsidiary team of superheroes, Talos, warned that unknown hackers had infected 500,000 Internet of Things devices including internet routers and storage devices; a massive number by anyone’s estimation, but most of those devices infected were in the Ukraine, infected by a state-sponsored malware called VPNFilter.
VPNFilter’s most dangerous filter is a “kill” command, which renders the device the bug lives on completely unusable, this would affect routers, servers, and devices like mobiles and laptops.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) believes the attack was carried out by the Russian government who were looking to cripple the country’s infrastructure during or before the game.
The effects of the attack would have been more devastating than that of Loris Karius’ goalkeeping, with internet access being cut off for hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide. This would have affected the final in a similar way to the hacking of South Korea’s hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics, with Wi-Fi networks and TV and web broadcasting being most troubled.
For example, in the UK, BT Sport were showing the final for free on their YouTube channel for the third year on the trot. This was added to new subscribers having three months for free until 29th May; imagine if the hack had not been discovered and carried out on the final, millions of people without an opportunity to watch the biggest game in European club football.
The embarrassment would have stretched from the broadcasters to the nation, with the perpetrators left rubbing their hand’s like Dick Dastardly if he finally managed to catch that pigeon, not to mention viewer disgruntlement at missing out on one of the biggest occasions in the footballing calendar.
The threat did extend beyond Ukraine, with devices infected in 54 different countries, but the focal point of Ukraine means that they could be smokescreens, or planted there as part of future plans.
Talos said that VPNFilter had been actively infecting Ukrainian hosts at an alarming rate with a huge spike in activity being discovered in May, and nearly all new victims located in Ukraine. Surely an assault on devices alongside one of the most watched events in the world is not a coincidence?
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