Ukraine targeted by massive cyberattack

Ukraine was hit by a large-scale cyberattack on Friday, but the authorities have assured that they have not found significant damage after this attack of unknown origin which comes in the midst of renewed tensions with Russia. The European Union promptly condemned this computer sabotage, its head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, affirming that all means were mobilized to help Kiev.

At midday on Friday, the sites of several Ukrainian ministries, including those of Foreign Affairs and Emergency Situations, remained inaccessible, AFP noted. “The sites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily out of service,” the spokesman for Ukrainian diplomacy said in the morning.

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Before the Ukrainian diplomacy website was made inaccessible, a threatening message – in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish – had been posted on its home page by the perpetrators of the attack. “Ukrainians, be afraid and prepare for the worst. All your personal data has been uploaded to the Web ”, could one read in this message accompanied by several logos including a crossed out Ukrainian flag.

Data theft denied

The authorities, however, denied any data theft. The “content of the sites has not been modified and no personal data has been leaked, according to the information available”, assured the Ukrainian intelligence services (SBU).

“A large part of the government resources that have been affected have already been restored, and the others will be accessible again very soon,” they continued, indicating that sites had been intentionally deactivated to prevent “the spread of attacks”. The origin of this hack was not immediately known and the Ukrainian authorities did not accuse anyone.

But it comes amid growing tensions between Ukraine and neighboring Russia, which Kiev and its Western allies accuse of planning a new invasion of Ukrainian territory. Large-scale computer sabotage targeting Ukrainian strategic infrastructures in order to disrupt the authorities is one of the scenarios mentioned as being the harbinger of a classic military offensive.

Multiple attacks

Ukraine has been the target of cyber attacks on Russia several times in recent years, notably in 2017 against several critical infrastructures and in 2015 against its electricity network. The latter had caused a major power cut for several hours in the west of the country. It had been attributed to Russia, but Russia never recognized its responsibility. Several DDos (denial of service) attacks from Russia have also already hit Ukraine’s Election Commission, according to Kiev.

American justice revealed in October that it had indicted six Russian military intelligence agents for these cyber attacks and others around the world. These Russian hackers, aged 27 to 35, are accused of having carried out their operations between 2015 and 2019 from an army building nicknamed “The Tower”, in Moscow, “for the strategic benefit of Russia”, according to the American indictment.

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Friday’s attack comes after several sessions of talks between Russian and Western officials that have taken place in recent days to defuse the crisis around Ukraine, without producing any progress. Moscow has indicated that it does not see the point of resuming these discussions in the short term, while ensuring that it has no “intention” to invade its neighbor.

In this tense context, the Russian Ministry of Defense published on Friday images of military maneuvers with 2,500 soldiers and a hundred tanks taking place about fifty kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Russia invaded and then annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula after a pro-Western revolution in 2014. Moscow is also widely regarded as the military and financial godfather of pro-Russian separatists at war with Ukrainian authorities in the east of the country since 2014.

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