TECH: Ukraine accuses Russia of a cyberattack on its government websites.

Hack­ers car­ried out attacks on sev­er­al Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment web­sites, includ­ing the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and Sci­ence, the State Ser­vice for Emer­gency Sit­u­a­tions and oth­ers, appar­ent­ly by local media. This attack on Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment web resources is the largest in four years. (Pho­to Illus­tra­tion by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Get­ty Images)
Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Get­ty Images
Ukraine is not shy about point­ing the fin­ger at a major cyber­at­tack that has ham­pered dozens of gov­ern­ment web­sites. As The Guardian reports, Ukraine’s dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion min­istry blamed Rus­sia for the hack, accus­ing the coun­try of wag­ing a “hybrid war” intend­ed to “desta­bi­lize” an already tense sit­u­a­tion and erode trust in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. Although offi­cials did not spec­i­fy evi­dence link­ing the attack to Rus­sia, Microsoft shared details late Sat­ur­day that sug­gest­ed a hos­tile coun­try was responsible.

The com­pa­ny’s Threat Intel­li­gence Cen­ter not­ed that the code was pure­ly destruc­tive mal­ware dis­guised as ran­somware. It had a ran­som note, bit­coin wal­let, and encrypt­ed email id, but no recov­ery mech­a­nism — in fact, it eras­es the Mas­ter Boot Record (the hard dri­ve item that tells a PC how to load the sys­tem from exploita­tion) and down­loads mal­ware intend­ed only for cor­rupt­ed files. All known tar­gets are in Ukraine, and there are no tan­gi­ble links between this cam­paign and oth­er groups.

Rus­sia has denied any involve­ment in the cyber­at­tack. A spokesman for Pres­i­dent Putin said Ukraine blamed every­thing on Rus­sia, “even the weath­er.” Rus­sia has long been accused of using cyber­at­tacks to tar­get its polit­i­cal oppo­nents, includ­ing Ukraine, the Unit­ed States and Euro­pean countries.

Microsoft said it was unsure of the cur­rent stage of the hack­ing oper­a­tion or the extent of the dam­age. It was not yet clear if there were oth­er vic­tims in Ukraine or beyond. How­ev­er, it is safe to assume that the tim­ing of the attack is prob­lem­at­ic, regard­less of the perpetrator.

Ukraine and its allies have been con­cerned for months about signs of an impend­ing Russ­ian inva­sion, and the Unit­ed States claimed on Jan­u­ary 14 that Rus­sia was plan­ning a false flag oper­a­tion that would help jus­ti­fy the inva­sion. The cyber­at­tack appears to exac­er­bate these ten­sions and may have weak­ened Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment infra­struc­ture at a crit­i­cal time.

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