Ukraine said Sunday it had evidence that Russia was behind a massive cyberattack that shut down key government websites last week, as Microsoft warned the hack could be much worse than first thought.
Tensions are at an all-time high between Ukraine and Russia, which accuse Kiev of massing troops at the border ahead of a possible invasion.
On Friday, Washington also accused Russia of sending saboteurs trained in explosives to stage an incident that could be the pretext to invade its pro-Western neighbor.
“All the evidence points to Russia being behind the cyber attack,” Ukraine’s digital transformation ministry said in a statement.
“Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war.”
The aim of the attack, the ministry said, “is not only to intimidate society, but also to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, stop the work of the public sector and destroy Ukrainians’ trust in the authorities.” .
The Kremlin maintains there was no evidence that Russia was behind the attack.
“We have nothing to do with it,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told DailyExpertNews. “Ukrainians blame Russia for everything, even their bad weather in their country,” he said in English.
Kiev said late Friday that it had found the first indications that Russian security services could be behind the cyber attack.
Ukraine’s SBU security service said the attacks targeted a total of 70 government websites in the early morning of Friday.
For a while, the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish that read: “Be afraid and expect the worst.”
Within hours of the breach, the security agency said access to most of the affected sites had been restored and the impact was minimal.
But Microsoft warned on Sunday that the cyber attack could be destructive and could affect more organizations than originally feared.
The US software giant said it continued to analyze the malware and warned it could render the government’s digital infrastructure useless.
“The malware, designed to look like ransomware but without a ransom recovery mechanism, is intended to be destructive and is designed to disable targeted devices rather than receive ransom money,” Microsoft said in a statement. a blog post.
The number of organizations affected may be greater than initially thought, Microsoft warned.
But Rick Holland, chief information security office at Digital Shadows in San Francisco, said these kinds of attacks were part of the Russian playbook.
“Whether Russia is encouraging other actors or directing cyber operations itself, Russia is trying to disrupt the government and private institutions of their geopolitical adversaries.”
John Bambenek, of US cybersecurity firm Netenrich, said: “Recovery depends on each entity, but Ukraine has a long history of responding to and recovering from sabotage attacks from Russia.”
‘We are ready anyway’
Russia has amassed tanks, artillery and tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine and demanded guarantees that its neighbor will never join NATO.
Senior Russian and Western officials held three rounds of talks in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna in the past week without reaching a breakthrough.
By the end of the week, Washington warned Moscow could stage a false flag operation to hasten an invasion within weeks.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Washington would map out its next steps in the crisis after consulting with its partners in the coming days.
“But the main point here is that we’re ready anyway,” Sullivan told CBS.
“If Russia wants to make progress with diplomacy, we are absolutely ready to do so in step with our allies and partners.
“If Russia wants to take the path of invasion and escalation, we are ready to do so, with a strong response.”
‘Look in the mirror’
On Sunday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg again called on Russia to de-escalate, adding that “we are ready to sit down and listen to their concerns too”.
Putin’s spokesman Peskov said there were “some agreements between” Russia and the West.
“But in general, we can basically say now that we’re staying on different tracks, on completely different tracks. And this is not good. This is disturbing,” he told DailyExpertNews.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev and its Western partners are working on a comprehensive “restraint package” that includes “painful” new sanctions and steps to step up defense cooperation with the West.
“If Putin wants to know why neighbors want to join NATO, all he has to do is look in the mirror,” he said in comments released Sunday by the State Department.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)