Russian Hackers Target Lithuania

Several Lithuanian state and private websites recently came under attack from a Russian-speaking hacker group. Lithuania’s tax authority said in a statement it had halted all activities due to an unusually large number of attempts to connect to its systems, although all data was safe. 

The cyber attacks were also aimed at Lithuania's Secure Data Transfer Network, a communications network for government officials that is built to withstand war and other crises, according to the defense ministry.

The Russian hacker group Killnet has now claimed responsibility for the denial-of-service (DDOS) cyber attack on Lithuania, saying it was in response to the decision by Lithuanian government, an EU member state, to block access of sanctioned supplies to the neighboring Russian territory of Kaliningrad. In a video circulating online, the pro-Russian hacktivist group demanded that Lithuania allow the transit of goods to Kaliningrad otherwise attacks would continue. 

Tensions between Lithuania and Russian have escalated since Lithuania imposed EU sanctions on certain Russian goods, including steel and iron ore that were headed for Kaliningrad, a small Russian enclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

Lithuanian state and private institutions were also hit by the denial-of-service cyber attack, the Baltic country’s National Cyber Security Centre said in a statement released by the defence ministry. "Part of the Secure National Data Transfer Network users have been unable to access services, work is in progress to restore it to normal," Lithuania's National Cyber Security Centre (NKSC) said in a statement issued by the defense ministry. “It is very likely that attacks of similar or greater intensity will continue in the coming days, especially in the transportation, energy and financial sectors,” the centre said.

Killnet has confirmed that it was behind the cyber attack. When asked if the attack was in retaliation for Lithuania blocking the transit of goods sanctioned by the European Union to Kaliningrad, a representative Killnet said: “Yes”.

Russia’s foreign ministry has demanded the lifting of what it terms Lithuania’s “openly hostile” restrictions on rail transit to Kaliningrad. The list of banned goods includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology. “If in the near future cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation through Lithuania is not restored in full, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement last week. “The situation is more than serious and it requires a very deep analysis before formulating any measures and decisions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Lithuania's Vice Minister of National Defense Margiris Abukevičius said the attacks were closely linked with Russia's strategic objectives in the diplomatic tussle with European governments over its invasion of Ukraine.
EU countries imposed a fourth package of sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine that hit transport lines to and from Kaliningrad, Russian territory sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

Located between the EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad receives supplies from Russia via rail and gas pipelines through Lithuania. Home to the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet, the exclave was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II.

Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis defended the move and said his country was simply implementing sanctions imposed by the EU, of which it is a member. He said the measures were taken after “consultation with the European Commission and under its guidelines”.

Lithuania Defence Ministry:    Odess Journal:   Al Jazeera:     Politico:   

Disclose.tv:   Newsweek:    Metro:     NYT:    CNN:    

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