Ukraine has denounced this Thursday a massive cyberattack against several websites of the country’s government, which included threatening messages urging Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst.” Among the attacked pages that were left out of service, are those of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Emergency Services, among others. Another portfolio of the Executive, that of Education and Science, confirmed the attack on its Facebook social network page, in which a text appears that attributes “to a global attack perpetrated on the night of January 13 to 14, 2022” the fact that this official site was unusable.
Before the home page of another ministry, the Foreign Ministry, was also inaccessible, the hackers had managed to publish an intimidating message addressed to Ukrainians and written in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and Polish: “Ukrainians! All your personal data has been posted on the network. All data on the computer is destroyed and cannot be recovered. All information about you has been made public (…) This is for your past, present and future, ”said the text, which appeared next to several threatening symbols, including a crossed out Ukrainian flag.
The Ukrainian government assured hours later that it had restored most of the affected websites and that no personal data had been stolen. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters later that it was too early to say who might be behind the attack, but that Russia had been the source of similar actions in the past. “It is too early to draw conclusions, but there is a long history of Russian (cyber) attacks against Ukraine in the past,” said this spokesman. The Russian Foreign Ministry has not yet responded to a request from the news agency for comment on these claims. Russia has previously denied being behind cyberattacks against Ukraine.
Commenting on the cyberattack, a senior Ukrainian security official was more explicit in telling the agency that all Ukrainian cybersecurity officials in the country “were aware of such possible provocations by the Russian Federation. Therefore, the response to these incidents is carried out as usual.”
Ukraine has suffered a series of cyberattacks since 2014, which, in previous episodes, managed to cut off electricity or disable supermarket checkouts, and forced the government to adopt additional security measures around the national currency, the hryvnia, after that the computer systems of the banks collapsed. The Kiev authorities believe that these attacks are part of what they define as a “hybrid war” by Russia against Ukraine.
In 2017, a virus called NotPetya by some experts hit the former Soviet republic and spread across the globe, crippling thousands of computers as it spread to dozens of countries. The Kremlin denied any involvement and called these accusations baseless.
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This new attack comes amid heightened tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which has concentrated significant military forces along the Ukrainian borders. According to US estimates, the Kremlin has more than 100,000 troops deployed around Ukraine. This Wednesday, while NATO and Russia negotiated under enormous pressure and even with the threat of a new war in Europe, the military de-escalation in Eastern Europe, more than 10,000 soldiers from the Slavic country began new military exercises in the nearby regions to Ukraine and Georgia, countries to which the Alliance promised in 2008 future accession to the Atlantic organization.
The idea of a neighboring country close to the West and outside its orbit is one of the main concerns of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in recent times has deepened his thesis that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” and that Ukraine it is on its way to becoming a NATO “aircraft carrier”. As he demonstrated in 2014, by annexing the Crimean peninsula in a referendum deemed illegal by the international community and by supporting the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk who are fighting the Kiev Army, for the Kremlin leader, keeping Ukraine under his Ferula is one of the main workhorses of Russian foreign policy.