Massive cyberattack cripples Ukraine government websites

7 months ago 297

A massive cyberattack on more than a dozen government websites of Ukraine yesterday (13 January) has escalated the eastern European country’s ongoing conflict with Russia, who is suspected to be behind the attack.

The cyberattack crippled the websites of Ukraine’s foreign ministry, cabinet of ministers, security and defence councils, as well as its embassies in the UK, US and Sweden, according to multiple reports. The US also warned yesterday that there is a high threat of a Russian military invasion.

Some of the messages that were shown on the screens of hacked websites read “be afraid and prepare for the worst”, “all information about you (Ukraine) has become public” and “this is for your past, present and future”.

A spokesperson from the foreign ministry of Ukraine told Reuters that while it was too early to determine who was behind the cyberattack, Russia has been known to carry out such attacks in the past. Most website are now back live with no reports of stolen data and Kyiv has opened an investigation into the matter.

Ukraine and Russia have been fighting for decades now, but relations turned particularly sour after Moscow invaded and annexed the disputed region of Crimea in 2014, followed by a string of Russian aggressions that continues until today.

The country has been the victim of multiple cyberattacks since the invasion, which have crippled power supplies, halted supermarket tills and crashed banks’ IT systems, according to Reuters, in what Ukraine has dubbed as a “hybrid” war being waged by Russia.

In 2017, a major international ransomware known by many names in the media, including GoldenEye and Petya, hit Ukraine and then spread across Europe and the world. Also known as NotPetya, it was a derivative of the WannaCry ransomware attack whose impact ranged from Boryspil International Airport in Kiev to the port of Mumbai.

Experts at the time thought NotPetya was not a ransomware, but a ‘wiper’ which demanded a bitcoin ransom for file access – with users who paid never recovering the files. The UK government later went on to blame Russia for the attack.

In November 2019, Apple came under fire after Apple Maps labelled Crimea as part of Russia for Russian audiences even though the territory is disputed (and considered to be part of Ukraine by the EU and US), with critics calling it out as a move to “appease” the Russian government.

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