National intelligence agency of Moldova warns of Russia attacks ahead of the presidential election

The national intelligence agency of Moldova warns of hybrid attacks from Russia ahead of the upcoming elections.

The Moldovan national intelligence agency warns of hybrid attacks from Russia ahead of the upcoming elections.

2024 is a crucial year for Moldova; like more than 70 other countries worldwide, it will go to the polls, and the outcome will also determine the request to join the European Union.

The director of the Information and Security Service (SIS) Alexandru Musteata during a press conference warned that Russia can carry out hybrid attacks against the country to destabilize the its government.  

The attacks can trigger social conflicts in Moldova, in Transnistria, and in the autonomous region of Gagauzia.

“This February, the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mircea Geoană, declared that Russia will continue to be “very aggressive, not only militarily” but also “in everything that means the spectrum of hybrid war”.” reported the website NewsMaker “According to Geoană, the discussions about a possible request of Transnistria to join Russia are “a form of psychological and political pressure” in the context of the presidential campaign in the Republic of Moldova in which the president Maia Sandu is competing for a new mandate.”

According to Musteata, Moscow will attempt to interfere with the referendum to join the EU that will take place in the fall. Russia will also “vilify and discredit” the pro-European candidates during the presidential elections.

The situation between Moldova and Russia is critical. Moldova has condemned the invasion of Ukraine and has aligned itself with sanctions against the Kremlin. In January 2023, the government institutions of Moldova were hit by a wave of phishing attacks, threat actors sent more than 1,330 emails to accounts belonging to the country’s state services.

The phishing messages attempt to trick recipients into clicking on an embedded link claiming that their domain is expiring. The link points to a fake payment page that recipients have to visit to renew their domains.

The messages pretend to be sent by the local hosting provider Alexhost, which also published an advisory to warn its customers of the ongoing campaign.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, pro-Russia threat actors hit Moldava due to its support to Kiev.

The Killnet group launched multiple DDoS attacks against governments that expressed support for Ukraine, including Moldova, Italy, Romania, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Norway, and Latvia.

In October 2022, another wave of attacks targeted tens of Moldovan institutions with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

Musteata explained that the Russian cyber operations will rely on any means to interfere with the vote and manipulate the sentiment of the Moldovan population towards aggressive Russian politics. Russia’s propaganda will extensively use social networks and instant messaging platforms to spread a false narrative about the events. The goal is to fuel discontent with the government of Moldova and promote protests against its politicians.

“In an influence campaign launched last July, Russia used Facebook advertisements to defend pro-Russian figures and their interests in Moldova.” reported The Record Media. “Last February, the former Moldovan Prime Minister accused Russia of attempting to destabilize the country by sponsoring protests and carrying out cyberattacks. Moldovan President Maia Sandu also blamed Russia for “waging a hybrid war against Moldova,” involving “propaganda and disinformation,” alongside “multiple cyberattacks” and “numerous false bomb alerts.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Russia)

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