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Ukrainian ministry accuses Russia of being behind cyberattack

Typing on a keyboard. (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukraine on January 16 accused Russia of being behind a cyberattack that disabled government websites, adding that Moscow has been waging an increasingly intense “hybrid war” against its neighbor.

On January 14, the Ukrainian government was targeted in an attack that forced many of its websites offline, included those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Civil Protection.

“All evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyberattack. Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war and is actively building up its forces in the information and cyberspaces,” the Ministry of Digital Development said in a statement on January 16.

The cyberattack comes as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looms after Moscow massed some 100,000 troops near the border with its neighbor and talks to resolve the tense standoff appear stalled.

A message left by the attackers in the January 14 mass web defacement told Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst.”

U.S. tech giant Microsoft said in a blog post on January 15 that its security experts discovered malware on dozens of government computers in Ukraine that could render them unusable.

Although the malware disguised itself as ransomware, its true purpose was to be able to destroy data on the command of hackers, Microsoft said.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement.

But U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan on January 16 voiced skepticism about Russia’s denial, telling CBS, “We’ve been warning for weeks and months, both publicly and privately, that cyberattacks could be part of a broad-based Russian effort to escalate in Ukraine.”

Sullivan added that the United States was working with Ukraine to beef up its cyberdefenses, while also coordinating with U.S. firms like Microsoft on ways to prevent future cyberattacks.

Sullivan added that U.S. experts had yet to positively confirm Russian responsibility for the cyberattack against Ukrainian targets.

However, he added, “It would not surprise me one bit if it ends up being attributed to Russia.

“If it turns out that Russia is pummeling Ukraine with cyberattacks and if that continues over the period ahead, we will work with our allies on the appropriate response,” he said.