A cyberattack has hit Ukrainian government websites

Ukraine claimed that Russia was probably behind the attack, which affected the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies.

Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, tweeted on Friday that “the investigation is still ongoing, but the Ukrainian Security Service has obtained preliminary indicators suggesting that hacker groups associated with the secret services Russians could be behind today’s mass cyber attack on government websites. “

Ukraine’s communications intelligence service said in a statement that up to 70 websites of central and regional authorities had been attacked.

“It is not the first or even the second time that Ukraine’s Internet resources have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian military aggression,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Information said in a statement.

Most of the affected state resources have already been restored, according to the Ukrainian Security Service, which said that personal data had not been breached.

What happened?

On Friday morning local time, websites of the Ukrainian government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, displayed dark screens with a threatening text saying that the personal information of Ukrainians had been hacked.

“Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All computer data is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” said the message, which was published in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

The US warns that Russia is sounding the alarm

“All the information about you has been made public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for you for your past, present and future. For Volhynia, for the OUN UIA [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists Ukrainian Insurgent Army], for Galicia, for Polesie and for historical lands “, says the website.

The UIA and the OUN were Ukrainian ultranationalist groups that fought for independence during the Soviet era, while Galicia, Volhynia and Polesie are areas from which they historically gained a high level of support.

A statement from Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy suggested that the text referred to groups and regions as “a way to hide the” Russian “footprint of hackers.”

“It is obvious that this was done on purpose to overshadow the hacker attack in Poland: Russia and its representatives have been working for a long time to create the fight between two neighboring friendly countries,” the ministry added. a statement.

The Security Service of Ukraine said in a statement that although “provocative messages were posted on the homepage of these sites”, the content of the sites was not modified, adding that personal data, according to preliminary information, did not occur. ”

The websites of the ministries of education, foreign affairs, sports, energy, agricultural policy, veterans, environment and the state emergency service of Ukraine and the state treasury were attacked, according to state media Ukrinform.

The Ministry of Education and Science, whose official website has been downgraded, urged citizens to use the ministry’s official social media channels on Friday while resolving the issue.

The head of Ukraine’s intelligence and security service, Yuri Shchigol, said nearly 70 websites of central and regional authorities had been affected.

“It appears that each of these sites was developed on behalf of the Ukrainian government by a Ukrainian company called Kitsoft,” Matt Olney, director of intelligence intelligence and banning Talos, the unit, told CNN. Cisco Technology Giant Threat Intelligence “While it is obviously unfortunate, we do not see this event alone as an increase or decrease in [cyber] risk in Ukraine, “he added.

Oleksandr Iefremov, CEO of Kitsoft, said the company was “actively involved in the restoration” of the government websites it supports. Not all Ukrainian government websites affected by the hacking run Kitsoft software, Iefremov said in a statement sent to CNN.

“We are testing vulnerabilities, bugs, and updating government websites that are compatible with Kitsoft in a timely manner,” Iefremov said. “Unfortunately, not all customers request support from the website, so we didn’t have access to it.”

Although the Ukrainian government has suggested Russian involvement in the hacking, outside experts say they cannot do this assignment without forensic evidence.

Oleh Derevianko, founder of the Kiev-based cybersecurity company ISSP, said he was not surprised by the disfigurement of government websites.

“It’s a good illustration of how you can use a simple disfigurement attack as an information operation tool when everyone is so nervous and agitated by a possible invasion,” he told CNN.

Attacks add to “already tense situation”

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell has condemned the cyberattack, warning that it contributes to the “already tense situation” in the region.

During a joint press conference with the French Foreign Minister in Brest, France, on Friday, Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said he had called an emergency meeting in know the attack on the websites of the Ukrainian government.

“These actions aimed at destabilizing Ukrainians contribute to an even escalation of the already tense situation,” Borrell said.

When asked if there were any Russian government or non-government actors behind the attacks, Borrell replied that while he did not want to “point the finger”, “there is a certain likelihood where they come from.”

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Friday it was “too early to draw conclusions” about who was behind the attack, but said there was “a long history of cyberattacks”. Russians against Ukraine in the past. “

Separately, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense alleged on Friday in a statement that Russian special services are preparing provocations against Russian Armed Forces military to accuse Ukraine.

The ministry’s intelligence directorate said: “The military units of the aggressor country and its satellites are being ordered to prepare for these provocations.”

CNN has contacted Russia’s defense ministry to comment on both allegations.

Tensions with Russia are high

The United States and Russia met this week for high-risk talks aimed at averting a war as Russia continued to rally troops near Ukraine’s borders amid a dispute over military activities. NATO in Eastern Europe and the prospect of Ukraine joining the military alliance.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are the highest in recent years, with the build-up of the Russian army raising fears that Moscow may launch an invasion in the coming weeks or months.

Ukraine has said Russia is trying to destabilize the country before any planned military invasion, and Western powers have repeatedly warned Russia of more aggressive moves.

The Kremlin denies plans to attack and argues that NATO support for Ukraine, including increased arms supplies and military training, poses a growing threat to Russia’s western flank.

A senior U.S. official warned that “the drum of war sounds loud” after a week of talks that ended Thursday with no clear progress.

Putin's big miscalculation

Russian officials have suggested they are about to drop talks over the US and NATO’s refusal to meet Moscow’s key demands: a guarantee that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO and that the alliance halts its expansion into Eastern Europe.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference that while Moscow’s proposals were “aimed at reducing the military confrontation, escalating the general situation in Europe, it is happening exactly in the West.” the opposite”.

He said: “We absolutely do not accept the emergence of the North Atlantic Alliance on our borders, especially considering the path that the Ukrainian leadership is following, both past and present. These are really the red lines and they know. that. “

Katharina Krebs reported from Kiev and Jake Kwon reported from Seoul. Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood, Sean Lyngaas, Sam Kiley and Dalal Mawad contributed to the report.

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