Cyberattack in Ukraine targets government websites

Jan 14, 2022: A major cyber attack on Friday temporarily disrupted Ukrainian government websites, officials said.

Although it was not immediately clear who was behind the cyberattack, the disruption came after growing tensions with Russia and talks between Moscow and the West led to no significant progress this week.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told the Associated Press that it was too early to say who was behind the attack, but that Russia had a long history of cyber-attacks in the past. Moscow has previously denied involvement in cyber-attacks against Ukraine.

The website of the country’s cabinet, seven ministries, the finance ministry, the National Emergency Service and the state services, where Ukraine’s electronic passports and vaccination certificates are stored, were temporarily unavailable on Friday as a result of the hack.

The websites contained a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish stating that Ukrainian personal data had been leaked to the public domain.

“Be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the message read, in part.

Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said no personal data had been leaked. The most affected websites were restored later Friday and no major infrastructure was affected.

Oleh Derevianko, a leading private sector expert and founder of the ISSP cybersecurity firm, said the timing of the defamatory and provocative message could be significant. “This could be part of a planned hybrid attack or a long-term and more sophisticated cyber operation that is ongoing but not over,”

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been rising in recent months as Moscow has deployed an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an attack. Moscow has said it has no plans to attack and has rejected Washington’s demand for a withdrawal, saying it has the right to deploy where necessary.

The Kremlin has demanded security guarantees from the West that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and withdraw the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. Washington and its allies have refused to make such promises but have said they are ready for talks.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc is ready to mobilise resources to improve Ukraine’s capacity to weather cyberattacks.

Russia has a long history of launching offensive cyber operations against Ukraine, including hacking its voting system before the 2014 national elections and attacking the country’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. Record cyber attacks with the NotPetya virus that targeted Ukrainian businesses and caused more than bn 10bn in global damage.

In a separate development, Russia said Friday it had eliminated the prominent hacking group REvil, which launched a high-profile attack on IT software company Kaseya last year at the request of Washington. Cyber ​​security was a major issue on the agenda of a summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden last June.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said in a statement that it had “suppressed the illegal activities” of group members during raids on 25 addresses. The search followed an “appeal by the relevant US authorities.”

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