Ukraine assessing damage after government websites are taken offline amid cyberattack

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A cyberattack left several government websites in Ukraine temporarily unavailable Friday, officials said.

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While it was not immediately clear who was behind the cyberattack, the disruption came amid rising tensions with Russia and talks between Moscow and the West with no significant progress made this week.

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Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told the Associated Press that it was too early to tell who might be behind the attack, “but there is a long record of Russian cyber attacks against Ukraine in the past.”

,‘They didn’t get access to the websites themselves.’,

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– Cyber ​​Security Company ISSP . founder of Ole Derevinko

Moscow has previously denied involvement in the cyber attack against Ukraine.
The websites of the country’s cabinet, seven ministries, the Treasury, the National Emergency Service and State Services, where Ukrainians’ electronic passports and vaccination certificates are stored, were temporarily unavailable Friday as a result of the hack.

The websites contained a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, stating that personal data of Ukrainians had been leaked into the public domain. “Fear and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the message read in part.

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Ukraine’s foreign ministry said it was too early to determine who was behind the attack.

Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine / AP

Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection said no personal data had been leaked. The country’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, said later on Friday that “a large part” of the affected websites had been restored.

Viktor Zora, deputy chairman of the State Service of Special Communications, said no critical infrastructure was affected. Jhora told a press conference on Friday that around 70 websites of both national and regional government bodies have been affected by the attack.

Ole Derevyanko, a leading private sector expert and founder of ISSP cyber security company, said the hack amounted to a simple disfigurement of government websites. Hackers got into a content management system they all use.

“He didn’t get access to the websites himself,” Derevinko said.

Derevinko said the hacker may have gained access to the hacked content management system long ago, so the question to consider is a timely and provocative message of perversion.

“It may just be a routine information operation [seeking] To reduce the government’s ability to create and increase uncertainty,” Derevinko said. This could potentially be part of “a planned hybrid attack or a longer-term more sophisticated cyber operation that is ongoing but not finished.” “

The main question, Derevinko said, is whether this is a stand-alone hacktivist action or part of a larger state-backed operation.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have escalated in recent months after Moscow gathered an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, fueling fears of an invasion. Moscow says it has no plans to attack and has rejected Washington’s call to withdraw its forces, saying it has the right to deploy them wherever necessary.

The Kremlin has sought security guarantees from the West that NATO denies membership of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and withdraws the coalition’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. Washington and its allies declined to make such a pledge, but said they were open to talks.

High-level talks between Moscow and the US this week, followed by a meeting of representatives of Russia and NATO and a meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, failed to bring any immediate progress.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the 30-nation military organization will continue to provide “strong political and practical support” to Ukraine in light of the cyber attacks.

“In the coming days, NATO and Ukraine will sign an agreement to enhance cyber cooperation, including Ukraine’s access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the 27-nation bloc is ready to mobilize all its resources to provide technical assistance to Ukraine and to help it improve its ability to weather cyberattacks. ready for

Borrell told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the French port city of Brest that the bloc would mobilize its cyber rapid response teams. “We are going to mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine deal with these cyber attacks,” Borrell said. “Sadly, we expected this to happen.”

Asked who could be behind the attack, Borrell said: “I can’t point to anyone because I have no evidence, but one can imagine.”

Russia has a long history of launching aggressive cyber operations against Ukraine, including hacking its voting system ahead of the 2014 national elections and attacks on the country’s power grids in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Russia pulled off one of the most damaging cyber attacks on record. The NotPetya virus that targeted Ukrainian businesses and caused more than $10 billion in damages globally.

Ukrainian cybersecurity professionals are bolstering critical infrastructure security after state-backed Russian attacks that temporarily disabled parts of Ukraine’s power grid in the winter of 2015 and 2016, and the crippling Notpetya cyber attacks.

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Zora told the AP that officials are particularly concerned about Russian attacks on the power grid, rail network and central bank.

Experts have said recently that the threat of another such cyberattack is significant because it would give Russian President Vladimir Putin the potential to destabilize Ukraine and other former Soviet countries that wish to join NATO.

“If you’re trying to use it as a platform and a deterrent to stop people from moving forward with the idea of ​​NATO or other things, cyber is perfect,” said a cybersecurity instructor at the SANS Institute. Tim Conway told the Associated Press. Interview last week.

Conway was conducting a fake cyberattack on the country’s energy sector in Ukraine last month. The US has been investing in improving Ukraine’s cyber security for many years through various departments such as the Department of Energy and USAID.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Haltquist, vice president of intelligence analysis at cyber security firm Mandiant MNDT,
That said, although it is too early to say who is behind the distortions, such actions are in the Russian government’s playbook. Russian hackers were blamed for sabotaging Georgian websites in 2019.

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