Ukraine defense ministry, banks hit by cyberattacks

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Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said today that it had been the victim of a cyber attack, while other reports indicate that the cyber attack also targeted two Ukrainian banks.

The Ministry of Defense of the Information Agency of Ukraine, on the website of Armyinform, today translated a post saying that the Ministry had experienced a cyber attack which was “probably” a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

“The official web portal of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine probably faced a DDoS attack when excessive requests were recorded per second,” the translation of the post says.

According to the translation of the post, technical work is underway to restore the portal.

The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, a wing of the nation’s culture ministry, also confirmed the attack in a statement, saying it had cut off access to the defense ministry’s site, according to Reuters.

The statement did not specify who was to blame, but a Reuters report suggested that the statement could be interpreted as an accusation against Russia.

Ukrainian Information Security said in a statement quoted by Reuters that “there is no denying that the attacker used small dirty tricks because his offensive plans were not working on a large scale.”

Reuters also reported that Oshadbank and Privatebank had experienced cyber attacks.

It was not immediately clear whether Russia, which has amassed an estimated 130,000 troops near Ukraine, was linked to any cyber attacks.

Christian Sorensen, a former operational planning team leader for US Cyber ​​Command, told VentureBeat today that the attacks were “increasing attention and pressure.”

“It doesn’t look like much of an impact yet,” Sorensen said in an email. “In the coming hours and days, I expect more activities to isolate and disrupt the activities of Ukrainian citizens and government in particular. The purpose at this stage is to increase leverage in negotiations. The next phase will be impressive and will continue to be a barrier for other countries to get involved.

Background

According to reports, the Russian build-up near Ukraine includes armed vehicles, ships and aircraft.

In mid-January, a day after the failure of diplomatic efforts to stop the Russian military build-up, more than 70 Ukrainian government websites were targeted with the new “Whispergate” family of malware. Ukraine blamed Russia for the attacks, which left many government websites inaccessible or distorted.

Cyber ​​security experts say that if Russia plans to invade Ukraine, it will undoubtedly use cyber-attacks as a major part of its strategy – as the country has done in previous military operations over the past decade and a half, including Georgia and the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

“In these previous conflicts, cyber was used to facilitate Russian businesses that today live in the former sovereign territory of another country,” Sorensen, who is now the founder and CEO of the cybersecurity firm SiteGain, said in a previous email. “In this way, cyber-Russian tactics are strictly integrated.”

If an invasion occurs, “the real question is whether there will be a cyber attack on Ukraine,” said Matthew Gorge, author of The Cyber ​​Elephant in the Boardroom and founder and CEO of the cybersecurity firm VigiTrust.

“Bringing decisive infrastructure into Ukraine, or the sovereign state infrastructure of any adversary, is a ploy to either move forward or escalate physical attacks,” Gorge said in an earlier email. “The idea behind it is that if you physically cripple the country at their borders while disabling access to banking, electricity, health services and IT systems, your attack is more powerful.”

Russia’s strategy will generally be to spread fear, uncertainty and suspicion – both before and during the active / shooting conflict – and to target military personnel and communications during the active conflict, Sorensen said.

In previous attacks, cybersecurity was used as a diversion – to confuse targets enough to “not fight late or get organized until it’s too late,” Sorensen said.

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