Newspaper article International New York Times

Hackers Used Windows Flaw to Spy, Firm Says

Newspaper article International New York Times

Hackers Used Windows Flaw to Spy, Firm Says

Article excerpt

The targets were often linked to the standoff in Ukraine, said iSight Partners, the computer security firm that released the report.

Russian hackers used a bug in Microsoft Windows to spy on several Western governments, NATO and the Ukrainian government, according to a report released on Tuesday by iSight Partners, a computer security company in Dallas.

The targets also included European energy and telecommunications companies and an undisclosed academic organization in the United States, the report said.

While it was unclear what type of information might have been retrieved, iSight said the targets of the attacks were often linked to the continuing standoff in Ukraine between Russia and the West. That included the NATO summit meeting in Wales in early September at which the Russian hackers targeted the Ukrainian government and at least one American organization, the iSight report said.

According to iSight, the illegal activities started as early as 2009 and used a variety of techniques to gain access to sensitive information. But the Russian hackers started making what experts call a zero-day attack -- exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability -- on Windows only in the late summer, the report said.

The bug affected versions of Microsoft operating systems from Windows Vista to the company's latest software, Windows 8.1. Microsoft was expected to release an update on Tuesday to resolve the vulnerability.

Despite efforts to thwart the Russian hackers' attacks, the iSight report said, their use of the Microsoft bug and other illegal tactics almost certainly allowed the hackers to gain some access to their targets.

"The use of this zero-day vulnerability virtually guarantees that all of those entities targeted fell victim to some degree," the computer security company said in a statement. …

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