Ukraine Says Government Websites Hit By “Massive Cyber ​​Attack”

A military member of the Military Forces of Ukraine watches through a spyglass in a front line trench with Russian-backed separatists near Avdiivka, in southeastern Ukraine, on January 9, 2022.
Enlarge / A military member of the Military Forces of Ukraine watches through a spyglass in a front line trench with Russian-backed separatists near Avdiivka, in southeastern Ukraine, on January 9, 2022.

Anatolio Stepanov | fake images

Ukraine said it was the target of a “massive cyberattack” after some 70 government websites went down.

On Friday morning, the targets included websites for the cabinet minister, the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Agriculture, Emergency, Energy, Veterans Affairs and the Environment. The websites of the public treasury and the electronic platform of public services Diia, where vaccination certificates and electronic passports are stored, were also out of service.

“Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network, ”read a message temporarily posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “All the data on your computer is being erased and will not be recoverable. All the information about you has been made public, fear and expect the worst ”.

Viktor Zhora, deputy head of Ukraine’s state agency in charge of special communication and information protection, told reporters on Friday that it was “the most powerful attack in four years” with around 70 central government websites and regional eliminated.

“I want to point out that as a result of the attack on the sites, the personal data of the Ukrainians has not been distorted in any way, no important data has been leaked, the content of the site has not been damaged and some sites have been tampered with. close, ”he said.

“As soon as we make sure that there are no third parties in the system, there is no malicious code and we will gather all the necessary evidence, the work of these sites will be restored,” said Zhora.

The incident follows tense negotiations this week between the United States, NATO and Western allies and Russia, with the aim of dissuading Russian President Vladimir Putin from opting for a deeper invasion of Ukraine. Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian officials recently warned that cyberattacks and other efforts to destabilize the country would be the prelude to further attacks. Authorities, however, have not blamed the attack on Friday.

“As a result of a massive cyberattack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies are temporarily down,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. “Our specialists are already working to restore the functioning of IT systems and the cyber police opened an investigation.”

The message left by the hackers, posted in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, added: “This is for your past, present and future. By Volyn, by the OUN UPA [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists/Ukrainian Insurgent Army], for Halychyna, for Polissya and for historic lands ”.

Comments at the end of the message referred to Ukrainian insurgent fighters during World War II and appeared to punish Ukraine for ethnic clashes and atrocities. Poland and Ukraine accuse each other of committing atrocities during the period in the region, which the countries have disputed for centuries.

The hackers’ post also included defaced images of Ukraine’s national symbols, with a line on the flag, coat of arms and a map of the country.

It was not immediately clear if the hackers were Poles or if it was an attempt to incite divisions between Ukraine and Poland, one of Kiev’s strongest European allies in the face of Russian aggression.

Julianne Smith, the US ambassador to NATO, said the US would wait “to see what we find out today.” He added that the evidence of a Russian cyberattack would “certainly” be classified as an example of renewed aggression against Ukraine, which could trigger Western sanctions against Moscow.

“We are monitoring everything that Russia is going to do towards Ukraine,” he said. “We are in tune with some of the efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within. We all understand that there are a variety of scenarios that could develop in relation to what happens between Russia and Ukraine. “

Josep Borrell, the top Brussels diplomat, said the EU security and political committee and cyber units will meet to see how to help Kiev.

“We are going to mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine deal with this cyberattack. Unfortunately, we knew it could happen, ”Borrell was quoted as saying by Reuters at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brest, western France. “It’s hard to say [who is behind it]. I can’t blame anyone because I don’t have proof, but we can imagine it. “

Ukraine’s SBU state security service said in a statement that “provocative messages were posted on the home page of these sites.”

“The content of the sites was not modified and the leakage of personal data, according to preliminary information, did not occur,” added the SBU.

Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s national security chief, told the Financial Times late last year that Ukraine has faced “ongoing” Russian cyberattacks and other attempts to destabilize the country since Moscow annexed Crimea and orchestrated a separatist war in its eastern regions.

“Internal destabilization is the immediate goal” of Russia before unleashing a possible deeper military incursion, he said, “first through cyber warfare, unleashing an energy crisis and an information war.”

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