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Ukrainian government target of large-scale cyber attack

An estimated 70 Ukrainian government websites, including the education, emergencies and foreign affairs ministries, were penetrated as part of a widespread cyber attack on the country last Friday, prompting fears of fresh hostilities.

An estimated 70 Ukrainian government websites, including the education, emergencies and foreign affairs ministries, were penetrated as part of a widespread cyber attack on the country last Friday, prompting fears of fresh hostilities.

An estimated 70 Ukrainian government websites were penetrated as part of a widespread cyber attack last Friday, with the Ukrainian government claiming to possess evidence that the incursion formed part of an orchestrated attack from Russia.

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According to media reports, the attack included the education, emergencies and foreign affairs ministries – with the foreign affairs website displaying the message “fear and expect the worst” in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish.

While the Ukrainian government eased fears by declaring that no private information was compromised throughout the incursion, Microsoft issued new warnings over the weekend about a new strain of malware detected on devices across the country.

“Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has identified evidence of a destructive malware operation targeting multiple organisations in Ukraine. This malware first appeared on victim systems in Ukraine on January 13, 2022. Microsoft is aware of the ongoing geopolitical events in Ukraine and surrounding region and encourages organisations to use the information in this post to proactively protect from any malicious activity,” Microsoft warned online.

“These systems span multiple government, non-profit, and information technology organisations, all based in Ukraine. We do not know the current stage of this attacker’s operational cycle or how many other victim organisations may exist in Ukraine or other geographic locations. However, it is unlikely these impacted systems represent the full scope of impact as other organisations are reporting.”

The attack prompted a fresh round of diplomatic hostilities between the two neighbours.

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“All the evidence points to Russia being behind the cyber attack,” Ukraine’s digital transformation ministry reported.

“Moscow is continuing to wage a hybrid war,” it continued, with the attacks designed to "intimidate society. But to also destabilise the situation in Ukraine, halting the work of the public sector and crushing Ukrainians' trust in the authorities”.

Speaking to CNN, Russia’s presidential spokesperson rubbished the accusations.

"Ukrainians are blaming everything on Russia, even their bad weather in their country," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Despite Russia protesting its innocence, the White House continues to hold Russia responsible for the attacks, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggesting that last week’s incursion was part of a larger hybrid war strategy emerging from Moscow.

“As part of its plans, Russia is laying the groundwork for the option of fabricating a pretext for the invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack on Russian forces in eastern Ukraine,” Psaki said.

The White House’s firm message was reiterated across the Atlantic in the UK, with Commons Defence Committee chairperson Tobias Ellwood suggesting that conflict in Ukraine is “inevitable and imminent”.

[Related: Russian hackers target millions of Gmail users]

Liam Garman

Liam Garman

Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Liam began his career as a speech writer at New South Wales Parliament before working for world leading campaigns and research agencies in Sydney and Auckland. Throughout his career, Liam has managed and executed a range of international media and communications campaigns spanning politics, business, industrial relations and infrastructure. He’s since shifted his attention to researching and writing extensively on geopolitics and defence, specifically in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney and is undertaking a Masters in Strategy and Security from UNSW Canberra.
 
Ukrainian government target of large-scale cyber attack
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