Like a small but fierce schoolboy, Ukraine stood up to Russia in a war that many previously predicted would annihilate the Zelensky-led country. But, six months and four weeks later, with casualties on both sides, Ukraine slowly regained its territories and achieved meaningful victories with its selfless warriors all prepared to give their lives for the country’s success.
Beyond the trenches of the battlefield are cyber armies, who have inflicted severe destruction on structures, institutions, the economy and even in the day-to-day lives of Russians for the longest time since the brutal invasion. Among them is Team OneFist, the international group of volunteers who swore to defend and protect Ukraine and its citizens on the cyber front.
Before Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his speech Wednesday, Team OneFist prepared a meaningful surprise too remarkable to ignore as it came in the form of a series of cyber offensives. The first one is the attack on a core private branch exchange (PBX), which covers the greater, if not all, of Udmurtia.
The PBX links its subscribers, ranging from businesses, government institutions and private individuals, to the greater telephone network in Russia. With a guide on how to best attack PBXs and the realization that they only have a small window to launch the attack, Team Onefist executed the strike that lasted for about 24 minutes.
“Based on prior experience and knowledge, they won’t be able to repair this in under 24 hours; their backups on the device were overwritten by our settings, so they’ll have to set it back up by hand,” Thraxman, one of Team OneFist’s commanders and top hunter told International Business Times in an exclusive interview.
“The attack on the Udmurtia PBX phone switch knocked out phone services for the entire region of 1.5 million, as the PBX routed all call types (Cellular, VoIP and landline). The switch was mind-wiped of all configs and will have to be rebuilt. The outage will last at least 18-36 hours,” Voltage Team OneFist’s founder added, highlighting that “All 6,256 lines of configuration data were erased from flash, bricking the PBX.”
Thraxman also underlined the other significances of the attack. “What made this especially important is that the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, is where the famous Kalashnikov Concern is based and has its factories,” he said. “Aside from producing guns, they also make laser-guided artillery projectiles of the Krasnopol (152 mm) and Kitolov-2M (122 mm) types, as well as drones – ZALA, the most important Russian drone manufacturer, is a subsidiary of Kalashnikov,” he added.
In addition to the Udmurtia PBX attack under Operation Conan, Team OneFist also launched Operation Thunderstrike a few hours later. Aimed to cause disruption and critical power outages across Russia, the team corrupted, disabled and destroyed 42 different APC and Schneider UPS (Battery backup) systems.
This includes the core data center of Nline, a wi-max license (for broadcasting and telecommunication) provider in Russia, a data center of Pskov State University, Vyborg campus of Leningrad State University, a data center for Shokolad’e, a chocolate company in Krasnodar.
The attack also impacted Europa Plus Radio’s office in Murmansk, and multiple data centers across Russia, including the Tattelecom data center. The UPS attack also hit data centers in Kursk, Moscow, Samara, Sochi, Rostov, Yekaterinburg, Taganrog, and Pskov.
“Of course, we made sure that these were data centers and communications targets, not anything vital like water or emergency services,” Thraxman said, highlighting that the team strictly adhered to the rules of war.
Team OneFist did not mindlessly hit the UPS and backup battery system but scheduled power outages, switched off audible alarms and cut-off power to all devices. Voltage explained that “every device connected to the UPS will lose power, and not be able to come back on until the UPS is reconfigured or the devices plugged directly into the wall.”
And some UPS are not only huge but also cost millions of rubles “to purchase and construct. Under/overvolting the batteries can damage them and create fires,” Voltage said. In what seems like a tradition to every Team OneFist attack, they “left their calling card on each UPS,” trolled the Russians, and ” set scheduled power-outages on them all.”
According to Voltage, “the attack was timed to coincide with Putler’s ( Putin+Hitler) speech, and we had to delay the attack when his speech was pushed back, to ensure that the outage would start as close to the time of his speech as possible so ensure they would miss it.”