The Russian government is likely behind an elite team of hackers targeting European security organizations and U.S. defense contractors, according to a tech firm.
Silicon Valley security firm FireEye released a report Tuesday detailing the allegations.
The Russian group, unlike Chinese-backed hackers, isn’t lifting intellectual property or stealing financial data. It’s solely collecting military and security secrets — "intelligence that would only be useful to a government,” FireEye said.
“We are tracking a focused, long-standing espionage effort," it added.
It’s long been assumed that Russia is directing widespread cyber attacks, but publicly there has been a “dearth of hard evidence,” according to FireEye.
Russia is suspected in a 2008 attack of the U.S. Defense Department.
The hacking team FireEye is tracking, dubbed APT28, has been targeting Eastern European governments and security groups, as well as multinational organizations like NATO.
APT28 has been hacking since 2007, FireEye concluded, “using flexible and lasting platforms indicative of plans for long-term use.” The coding behind the attacks require “a high level of skill.”
One of the main ways FireEye was able to tie the attacks to Russia was because almost all of the hacking occurred Monday through Friday during business hours in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Other malware samples from APT28 had instructions attached with Russian language settings.
Other security firms have called out Russia over cyber espionage in recent months. Two weeks ago, iSightPartners said Russia was exploiting a Microsoft Windows bug to gather information on NATO, Western European governments and U.S. academic organizations.
Relations between Russia and the west are strained amid Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg touted the importance of a strong Western security alliance to manage ties with Russia, the Associated Press reported.
"NATO is here to stay. Russia is here to stay. So we're going to have some kind of relationship," Stoltenberg said in his first policy speech since assuming the top spot on Oct. 1.
“Only a strong NATO can build a truly constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia," he said. "But to get there, Russia would need to want it, and to take clear steps to make it possible.”