Yandex, the 'Google of Russia' attacked by hackers

Yandex YouTube grab

A group of hackers, working for Washington intelligence agencies targeted Russian internet search company Yandex, which is also called "Russia's Google" in late 2018, deploying a rare type of malware to spy on user accounts.

This incident was revealed on Thursday, June 27 by four people who knew what happened exactly. As reported by Reuters, the source stated that this malicious malware, called Regin, is also known to be used by the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada but intelligence agencies in those countries declined to comment.

The malware was detected in 2014 following revelations by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

The targeted Russian company which is known for its array of online services from internet search to email and taxi reservations claimed to has more than 108 million monthly users in the country and conducts operations in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

As per sources, who revealed the attack, the cybercriminals appeared to be searching for technical information that could explain how the company authenticates user accounts. This kind of information could have helped the hackers impersonate a Yandex user and gain access to their private messages.

The sources added that the attackers covertly maintained access to the company's network for at least several weeks without being detected. But, it should be noted that the authority recognized the malware in an early stage and "neutralized" it before any damage could be done.

Sources said some of the Regin code found on Yandex's systems had not been used in any previously known cybersecurity breach incident.

It is the second report of this month that showcased how US targeted Russian organizations. Earlier The New York Times dated June 15 reported that the US has been conducting digital incursion against Russia's electric power grid.

In 2018, the US authority accused Russia of a series of digital attacks against US critical infrastructure, including power plants. On the other hand, former Special Counsel for US Department of Justice Robert Mueller, said Russia interfered in the 2016 US elections and hacked computers.