In a new report issued on Thursday, Lithuania’s State Security Department accuses hacker groups linked to Russian intelligence of cyber-attacks against top Lithuanian officials and decision-makers and of using the state infrastructure as a base for attacks on other targets involved in COVID-19 vaccine research.
In its annual national security threat assessment report, Lithuania’s intelligence service claims that APT29, a notorious Russian cyberespionage group, exploited Lithuania’s IT infrastructure to launch attacks by APT29 against foreign entities developing a COVID-19 vaccine. APT29 is suspected by many to have links to Russia’s intelligence services.
Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed lockdown decreased the extent of human espionage infiltrations into the country, still “Russian intelligence operations pose a major threat to Lithuania’s national security.” The shift to remote work only increased the cyber-espionage threat, the report says.
The report issued by the Lithuania State Security Department said the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Lithuania caused a decrease in Russian intelligence operations against the country in 2020. While the Kremlin’s efforts shifted to cyber-espionage.
Overall, the report estimates that the overall threat of cyber and information attacks has increased in Lithuania and the number of cyber-attacks is growing annually.
State Security Department head Darius Jauniskis told Lithuanian lawmakers as he presented the report at the Parliament said those cyber activities were well-planned and “fueled by anti-Western propaganda coming out from the Kremlin.”
According to the report, while 2020 didn’t see a significant increase in the amount of malicious activity in cyberspace in Lithuania, the targeting noticeably shifted, as hackers turned to ransomware attacks on hospitals and other healthcare institutions attempting to encrypt the data and demand ransom for decryption.
The report claims that Russia-backed hackers conducted attacks against Lithuania’s high-ranking decision-makers, officials, and public institutions in such sectors as foreign affairs, national security, energy, and education.
Since the nation gained its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Lithuania’s relations with Russia have been icy.