Cyberattack in Ukraine targets government websites

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

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Associated Press it was too early to say who might have been behind the attack.

Moscow had previously denied any involvement in cyberattacks against Ukraine.

The websites of the country’s Cabinet, seven ministries, the Treasury, the National Emergency Service and the State Services website, where electronic passports and vaccination certificates of Ukrainians are stored, were temporarily unavailable on Friday as a result of hacking.

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

Ukraine’s State Service for Communication and Information Protection said that no personal data had been leaked.

The country’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, insisted that personal data was safe because “the operability of websites, not records”, was affected by the hack. Fedorov said some of the websites attacked were blocked by their administrators in order to contain the damage and investigate the attacks.

He added that “a large part” of the affected websites have been restored.

The United States estimates that Russia has massed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine, a buildup that has fueled fears of an invasion. Moscow says it has no intention of attacking and rejects Washington’s request to withdraw its forces, saying it has the right to deploy them wherever needed.

The Kremlin demanded security guarantees from the West that NATO would not expand eastward.

Last month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO refuse membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and cancel the alliance’s military deployments in central and eastern Europe. Washington and its allies declined to provide such promises, but said they were ready for talks.

High-stakes talks this week between Moscow and the United States, followed by a meeting of Russian and NATO representatives and a meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, will not did not make it possible to move forward immediately.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the 27-nation bloc was ready to mobilize all its resources to provide technical assistance to Ukraine and help it improve its ability to do against cyberattacks.

Borrell told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the French port city of Brest that the bloc would mobilize its rapid response teams online. Borrell added that he would ask member countries to allow Ukraine to benefit from anti-cyberattack resources under the EU’s permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), even if the country is not a member of the EU. ‘union.

“We will mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine deal with these cyberattacks,” Borrell said. “Unfortunately, we expected this to happen.”

Asked who might be behind the attack, Borrell replied: “I can’t point anyone out because I don’t have any evidence, but one can imagine.”

Russia has a long history of launching aggressive cyber operations against Ukraine, including a hack into its voting system ahead of the 2014 national elections and an attack on the country’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Russia unleashed one of the most damaging cyberattacks on record with the NotPetya Virus which targeted Ukrainian companies and caused over $10 billion in damage worldwide.

Experts recently said the threat of another such cyberattack was significant because it would give Russian President Vladimir Putin the ability to destabilize Ukraine and other former Soviet countries that want to join NATO without having to commit of troops.

“If you’re trying to use it as a stage and a deterrent to keep people from moving forward with consideration of NATO or other things, cyber is perfect,” Tim Conway said. , a cybersecurity instructor at the SANS Institute, told The Associated Press in an interview last week.

Conway was in Ukraine last month to carry out a simulated cyberattack on the country’s energy sector. The United States has invested in improving Ukraine’s cyber defenses for several years through various departments, such as the Department of Energy and USAID.

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Catherine Gaschka in Brest, France, Dasha Litvinova in Moscow, and Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.