Hackers shut down Ukrainian government websites and warn, ‘Be afraid and wait for the worst’
A multipronged cyberattack by hackers on Thursday led to a complete shutdown of 70 Ukrainian government websites. The hackers left threatening and grammatically incorrect messages in Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian on the foreign ministry website.
“Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them,” one message read. “All information about you has become public, be afraid and wait for the worst. This is for you, for your past, present and future.”
Despite the messages, Ukraine’s security service said hackers had not accessed or leaked any personal data, according to initial assessments. Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter that the government had started restoring the original websites and investigating the cyberattack.
Ukraine officials appeared to blame the attack on Russia.
“We have not seen such a significant attack on government organizations in some time,” read one statement from Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the New York Times reported. “We suggest the current attack is tied to the recent failure of Russian negotiations on Ukraine’s future in NATO.”
Diplomacy talks between Moscow and the U.S. stalled earlier this week. And long-standing tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated over the last few days.
On Jan. 10, multiple Russian aircrafts joined the 100,000 military personnel already stationed near the Ukrainian border, with an estimated 75,000 additional soldiers projected to join them.
In December, the U.S. prepared a $200 million military aid package for Ukraine but held off on delivering the assistance in favor of de-escalation tactics and continued diplomacy talks. Now the Biden administration is reportedly considering backing a Ukrainian insurgency if Russia invades.
This is not the first time that Ukraine has suffered from a digital attack. The Russian cyber group Sandworm hacked into Ukrainian power grids in 2015 and 2016, leaving approximately 230,000 households without electricity two days before Christmas. The Russian military hacking group was also behind the NotPetya ransomware attack in 2017, an attempt to destabilize Ukrainian digital infrastructure, which spread to 60 other countries and caused $10 billion in damages.
Russia and Ukraine are currently at odds with one another over Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. President Putin has tried to brand Ukraine as a part of greater Russia.
“Ukrainians and Russians are a single people,” Putin said in June.
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