KIEV — Government websites of Ukraine were the target of a massive cyberattack this Friday, the 14th. The pages of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education are among those affected, as well as the embassies in United Kingdom, United States and Sweden.
The attack occurs at the moment when tensions increase between the Russia and the nato, the western military alliance, because Russian troops are concentrating on the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an invasion.
Before the sites went down, a message was posted warning Ukrainians to prepare for the worst. The message reproduced the Ukrainian flag and the crossed out country map. There was also a reference to “historic lands”.
“Ukrainians! … All information about you has been made public. Be afraid and expect the worst. It’s your past, present and future,” the message reads.
So far, the perpetrators of the attack have not yet been identified. But Ukrainian officials recalled the “long history” of Russian cyberattacks against the country.
“Our experts have already started to restore the working of the IT systems and the cyber police have opened an investigation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Guardian.
The attack comes amid talks about tensions on Russia’s border with Ukraine, with the United States participating in the negotiations.
Russia has been behind similar incidents before, raising fears that it could mark the beginning of broader Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Just hours before the attack, Dmitri Alperovitch, a cybersecurity expert and co-founder of CrowdStrike, a leading company in the field, said in a Washington Post live discussion that Ukraine had already been subjected to increasing cyberattacks, which could be a prelude to an invasion. .
“We are also seeing an increase in cyber intrusions that appear to be intelligence gathering for the possible execution of a kinetic operation by the Russians,” he said. “Many people, myself included, very likely expect an invasion of Ukraine to take place next month.”
On Friday morning, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education and Science posted on social media that their websites were down, and local media reported that the country’s main government website, the Ministry of Emergency and the Ministry of Veterans Affairs were also affected.
The attack came immediately after a flurry of diplomatic efforts in the Europe failed to resolve the growing crisis over Russian demands to the United States and NATO urging the alliance not to allow Ukraine or other Eastern European countries to join.
Russia has deployed up to 100,000 troops and military equipment near Ukraine, with US intelligence warning that an invasion is being planned.
Russian officials have denied any plan of action against Ukraine and insist the country has the right to send its forces anywhere on its territory. Moscow has also threatened to drop any further security talks amid Washington and NATO’s refusal to give in to its demands.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added on Friday that he hopes US and NATO forces will use the tensions as a pretext to build up their forces in the region. He also said Russia is ready for new sanctions, which Western countries have threatened to impose if there is an invasion of Ukraine.
“They are capable of anything, but rest assured we are ready for any twist. Any illusions we may have left in the economy have disappeared in the last seven years,” he told a news conference on Friday. “Every economic linkage mechanism that relies on Western-controlled entities clearly contains risks, but we are getting rid of them quickly and consistently, particularly in high-tech sectors.”
Ukraine was the main target of the devastating NotPetya cyberattack in June 2017 that hit banks, ministries, subway and other organizations in the country. The United States, the United Kingdom and Britain and others blamed the attack on the Russian military, although Moscow denied any involvement.
The virus has spread around the world, impacting major global companies including Merck, a pharmaceutical company; shipping companies Maersk and FedEx; and others, stopping some transport operations./ W.POST, AP and REUTERS