Ukraine blames Russia for cyberattack targeting government agencies

Protesters gather outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on June 14, 2014. On Sunday, Ukraine blamed Russia of attacking its cyberinfrastructure, stating Moscow has been engaging in a "hybrid war" since annexing Crimea in 2014. File Photo by Ivan Vakolenko/UPI

Jan. 17 (UPI) — Ukraine blamed Russia on Sunday for a cyberattack targeting the computers of government agencies, accusing the Kremlin of waging “a hybrid war” amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

The Balkan nation said all evidence points to Russia being behind the attack, stating its motivation is to reduce the public’s trust of the Kiev government by exposing vulnerabilities in critical information infrastructure and through draining Ukrainian data.

“Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war and is actively building forces in the information and cyberspace,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Development said in a statement, adding that this cyberspace war has been ongoing since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.

Microsoft on Saturday announced in a blog post that it has discovered destructive malware capable of erasing data on dozens of Ukrainian government computer systems.

The malware was first identified on Ukraine systems Thursday, spanning multiple government agencies and non-profit and information technology organizations based in the country, the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center said.

More than 70 state resources were attacked, Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service said in a statement Sunday.

While Microsoft was not able to assess the intent or origin of the malware, the team said it is “aware of ongoing geopolitical events in Ukraine” as Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and warned the malware represents “an elevated risk to any government agency, non-profit or enterprise” located in Ukraine.

“We strongly encourage all organizations to immediately conduct a thorough investigation and to implement defenses using the information provided in this post,” Microsoft said.

Microsoft said the computer code was designed to appear similar to ransomware but lacked features of ransomware that allow the perpetrators to extract a ransom and was “inconsistent with cybercriminal software activity.”

The discovery comes as several Ukrainian government websites were hacked on Thursday and Friday and replaced with messages stating that Ukrainians’ data had been compromised.

Ukrainian officials on Sunday said that this threat of data being compromised is a lie manufactured by Russia to not only intimidate society but to destabilize Ukraine as no one’s data was put at risk.

“We urge Ukrainians not to panic,” the ministry said. “All personal data are under reliable protection in state registers.”

The State Special Communications Service on Sunday identified the access point to government infrastructure that the hackers targeted as a commercial company with administrative access to the web resources.

“The battlefield for security and the very existence of our state lies in several planes – military, diplomatic, historical, and now digital. Therefore, Ukrainian cyber experts must unite to counter the threat and neutralize the enemy,” the Ministry of Digital Development said.


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