Ukraine Government Hit By Massive Cyber Attacks

Ukraine is under large-scale cyber attack, with the websites of at least 10 government departments including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Education Ministry taken down. This massive cyber attack contained a provocative warning to Ukrainian citizens to "be afraid and expect the worst" clandestinely posted  on sever government websites late on Thursday 13th January. 

Other government websites became inaccessible, prompting concerns of a long-threatened kinetic attack from Russian armed forces which have been assembling on Ukraine's borders for weeks. Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson said it was too early to say who could be behind the attack but said Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.

The cyber attack, which hit the foreign ministry, the cabinet of ministers and the security and defence council among others, comes as Kyiv and its allies have sounded the alarm about a possible new Russian military offensive against Ukraine. Suspected Russian hackers left a message on the foreign ministry website, according to reports. It said: “Ukrainians! … All information about you has become public. Be afraid and expect worse. It’s your past, present and future.”

The message reproduced the Ukrainian flag and map crossed out. It mentioned the Ukrainian insurgent army, or UPA, which fought against the Soviet Union during the second world war. There was also a reference to “historical land”.

  • Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Lind said the West must stand up to any Russian aggression. “We have to be very firm in our messages to Russia: that if there are attacks against Ukraine, we will be very harsh and very strong and robust in our response,” she said. Sweden stood in solidarity with Kyiv, she added.
  • Ukraine's government later said it was restoring most of the affected sites and that they thought so far no personal data had been stolen. A number of other government websites have been suspended to prevent the attack from spreading, it said.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of war between Kyiv's forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that same year.

The United States said recently Russia might be trying to create a pretext to launch a new military assault on Ukraine. They were comparing the current situation to similar circumstances in 2014. Russian cyber attacks and other attempts to destabilise the country have been happening since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and orchestrated a proxy separatist war in its eastern regions.

The Russian comments reflect a pattern of Moscow saying it wants to pursue diplomacy but rejecting calls to reverse its troop build-up near Ukraine and warning of unspecified consequences for Western security if its demands go unheeded.

Ukraine has suffered a series of cyber attacks since 2014, which have knocked out power supplies, frozen supermarket tills, and forced the authorities to prop up the hryvnia currency after banks' IT systems crashed.

Reuters:   CNBC:     Guardian:     USNews:     Bloomberg:       SwissInfo:      FT:     Sky:      Standard:     CBS

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