Government Websites in Ukraine Down After Hacking Attack

Ukrainian officials and media reports say a number of government websites in Ukraine are down after a massive hacking attack.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Associated Press it was too soon to say who was behind it, “but there is a long record of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine in the past.”

While it is not immediately clear who was behind the attacks, they come amid heightened tensions with Russia and after talks between Moscow and the West failed to yield any significant progress this week.

Moscow had previously denied involvement in cyberattacks against Ukraine although Russia has a long history of cyberattacks against Ukraine, including nearly thwarting its 2014 national elections and briefly crippling parts of its power grid during the winters of 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Russia unleashed one of most damaging cyberattacks on record with the NotPetya virus that targeted Ukrainian businesses and caused more than $10 billion in damage globally.

No critical infrastructure was affected in the attack; neither were any personal data accessed. The hack amounted to a simple defacement of government websites, said Oleh Derevianko, a leading private sector expert and founder of the ISSP cybersecurity firm. The hackers got into a content management system they all use, but “didn’t get access to the websites themselves.”

Is this a standalone hacktivist action? Or is it part of a larger state-backed operation?

A message posted by the hackers in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish claimed Ukrainians’ personal data was placed online and destroyed. It told Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst.” In response, Poland’s government issued a statement noting that Russia has a history of such disinformation campaigns and that the Polish in the message was clearly not from a native speaker.

“In the coming days, NATO and Ukraine will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

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