Madrid: Russian hackers have exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government and companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors, according to cyber intelligence firm iSIGHT Partners.

The company reported Tuesday on its website that it had detected a five-year cyber espionage campaign dubbed “Sandworm” to infiltrate the Microsoft Windows operating system of NATO, Ukrainian officials, a government organisation from western Europe and European energy and telecommunications companies.

iSIGHT said it had no details on the information found by the hackers, but added that the institutions under attack could have been subjected to “damage”, given the kind of vulnerability found in their operating systems.

The hackers were seeking information related to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia as well as other geopolitical issues, said the cyber security firm, which attributed the spying to Russia.

The Sandworm Team, which is believed to have been running since 2009, used the bug in Windows, phishing techniques and malware archives to access information.

The vulnerability affects versions of Windows Vista SP2, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2008 and 2012 and could be used by a hacker to remotely control computers, iSight said.

The company said Microsoft had developed a patch that puts an end to the problem.

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