The global community is trying hard to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression, but the hacker activists have taken the fight right inside Putin’s Russia. Groups like Teame OneFist and Anonymous have brazenly breached Russian cyber defenses and wreaked havoc inside the country, making the war very real for Russians in Russia.
In one such attack by Team OneFist, traffic in Novosibirsk, the third most-populous city in Russia, was severely disrupted and many Russians were left pounding the pavements. The international coalition of volunteer cyber warriors have pledged to defend Ukraine in the conflict, which Russia calls a “special military operation.”
Novosibirsk is the largest city in the Novosibirsk Oblast and Siberian Federal District, with a population of over 1,686,000. Transportation in the city includes a metro system, buses, taxis, trams and trolley buses.
Dubbed Operation Yellow Submarine after the yellow cabs in the U.S., the cyber attack hit the Novosibirsk City Transport Traffic Management System early this month. Operation Yellow Submarine was “long-planned,” Team OneFist founder Voltage told International Business Times in an exclusive interview. He said his group had breached the transport system about a month ago and was lurking for the right moment to strike.
“We were saving it for a moment when such an attack on transportation logistics would do the most good for the war effort,” he said. The hack was rolled out between Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, right after Operation Sidewinder, which destroyed 800 routers and voice gateways of Russia’s largest digital service provider, Rostelecom.
The cyber attack was designed to sabotage transportation and shipping logistics in Novosibirsk. Team OneFist wanted to create transportation chaos in the city and “blind the management to where traffic was heavy in the city.” According to Voltage, without this system, steps to address the daily traffic jams in the city would be very difficult.
Team OneFist’s attack blinded the city planners to the traffic condition. It broke the automated bus scheduling system as well as the electronic signs on buses and trolleys.
Taxi services using the system were “unable to function, forcing the Orcs back to manual/old-style practices with no visibility into the traffic situation in the city,” Voltage explained using the derisive term Ukrainians use for Russians. “The system and its backups were destroyed from within, so no quick recovery was possible.”
Team OneFist’s attack on Novosibirsk’s Transport Traffic Management System paralyzed the city for several days. Voltage said it took the city a couple of days to restore the system, which forced commuters on to the pavements during those time.
The Russians did try to stop the attack, cutting Team OneFist’s access to the system even as they were still deleting the data. But the group prevailed at the end of that cyber battle.
“We penetrated the system, downloaded everything and demolished the server from within. We were not able to crash it completely, but had full file access to everything,” Voltage said.