Suspected Turkish activists hack Russian minister

Suspected Turkish activists hack Russian minister

The Instagram account of Russia’s communications minister was knocked offline Sunday by hackers claiming to be Turkish activists, Reuters reports.

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Relations between the two countries have been strained since a Turkish fighter shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border in November.

The self-named "Börteçine Cyber Team" was able to temporarily block Minister Nikolai Nikiforov’s account, which has since been restored. The group’s account features Turkish flags and a portrait of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Nikiforov has complained that it took Instagram’s technical services department nine hours to resolve his complaint.

The incident comes after hundreds of thousands of Turkish Web sites were bombarded by cyberattacks during the week leading up to Christmas.

The hacking collective Anonymous later claimed credit for the onslaught, saying it would continue the assault if Turkey "doesn't stop supporting" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. At the time, however, local media reported that Russia was suspected of conducting the attacks.

Ukraine has also pinned the blame on Russia for a recent attack on its energy grid.

A power company in western Ukraine said on Dec. 23 that “interference” in its network had left large sections of the area it serves without power, including the regional capital Ivano-Frankivsk.

"We found that the [malware] came from Russia," the Ukrainian Security Service SBU said last week. "It was an attempt to interfere in the system. But it was discovered and prevented.”

Security researchers say it’s getting harder to differentiate between activist hackers — so-called hacktivists — and terrorist groups and nation-state cyber warriors.

Traditionally defined as breaching data to achieve a political or social objective, hacktivism can take many different forms, from website defacement to taking over a Twitter account. Such attacks are on the rise, some say.

Countries such as Iran and North Korea rely on hacktivism as a cover for operations, and employ patriotic hackers to pull one-off jobs. Experts say such tactics are increasingly being used as a front for covert operations by nation-states.