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Massive cyber attacks against Ukraine: a prelude to a military offensive amid tension with Russia?

“Be afraid and expect the worst”. Those were the words that hackers published early this Friday the 14th on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. The threat was part of a massive cyberattack against several government websites in that country, which did not take long to denounce the “russian footprintafter those events.

The cyberattack targeted some 70 websites, including the sites of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education and Science, and the Service for Emergency Situations, which were left out of service.

The websites contained a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish that said Ukrainians’ personal data had been leaked into the public domain. “Be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future”, said part of the message. But nevertheless, the Ukrainian authorities guaranteed that the attacks caused no damage and that citizen data was safe.

Although at the moment it is not clear who is responsible for the actions, they took place in an atmosphere of great tension with Russia and after talks between Moscow and the West failed to make any significant progress this week.

U.S estimates that Russia accumulates around 100,000 soldiers near the border with Ukraine, a deployment that has raised fears of a possible invasion. Moscow says it is not planning any attacks and rejects Washington’s demand to withdraw its troops.

eyes on moscow

Ukraine has been the target of cyberattacks several times in recent years attributed to Russia, as in 2017 against several critical infrastructures and in 2015 against its electrical network.

during the last month the Security Service of Ukraine blocked almost 60 cyberattacks against websites of official institutions.

Ukraine and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Moscow of perpetrating cyberattacks against their sites and infrastructure, something that Russia denies.

This Friday the 14th, Foreign Minister Oleg Nikolenko told The Associated Press that although it was too early to determine who was behind the attacks “There is a long history of Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine in the past.”

An important detail in the latest cyberattack is that the hackers published their threatening ads in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

The American newspaper “The New York Times” points out that the measure of publishing the message on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in those languages ​​”appeared to be an effort to hide the hackers’ origins and motives, and shift the blame and suspicion elsewhere”.

Other similar attacks

The medium adds that the US government has traced some of the most drastic cyberattacks of the last decade to Russian actions in Ukraine, that is, the tactics that were first seen in Ukraine have appeared later elsewhere.

For a long time, Ukraine has been seen as a testing ground for Russian online operations, a kind of free-fire zone for cyber weapons in a country already embroiled in a real-world shooting war with Russian-backed separatists in two eastern provinces”, He says.

Remember, for example, that a variety of Russian military spyware called X-Agent or Sofacy which Ukraine says was used to hack the country’s Central Election Commission during the 2014 presidential election, it was later found on the Democratic National Committee’s server in the United States after the 2016 election hacking attack.

Other types of malware such as BlackEnergy, Industroyer, and KillDisk, aimed at sabotaging computers used to control industrial processes, shut down electrical substations in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016, causing blackouts, including in the capital, Kiev.”, he points.

And he adds that the following year, “a cyberattack targeting Ukrainian businesses and government agencies that spread, perhaps inadvertently, around the world in what Wired magazine later called ‘the most devastating cyberattack in history’. The malware, known as NotPetya, targeted a type of Ukrainian tax preparation software, but apparently got out of hand, experts say.”.


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