Ukraine blames Russia for cyber attack on government websites

Deepak Gupta January 16, 2022
Updated 2022/01/16 at 3:38 PM

Ukraine does not hesitate to point the finger after a major cyber attack that crippled dozens of government websites. Like The Guardian reports, Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation blamed Russia for the hack, accusing the country of waging a “hybrid war” aimed at “destabilizing” an already tense situation and eroding trust in the Ukrainian government. While officials did not elaborate on the evidence linking the attack to Russia, Microsoft shared details on Saturday that suggested a hostile nation was responsible.

The company’s Threat Intelligence Center noted that the code was purely destructive malware disguised as ransomware. It had a ransom note, a Bitcoin wallet, and an encrypted message identifier, but no recovery mechanism – in fact, it clears the Master Boot Record (the hard drive element that tells the PC how to load the operating system) and downloads malware aimed solely at 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 cyber attack. A spokesman for President Putin said Ukraine blamed everything on Russia, “even the weather”. Russia has long been accused of using cyber attacks to target its political opponents, including Ukraine, the US and European countries.

Microsoft said it was unsure about the current stage of the hacking operation or the extent of the damage. It was not yet clear whether 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 worried for months about signs of an imminent Russian invasion, and the US on January 14 claimed that Russia was planning a false flag operation that would help justify such an invasion. The cyber attack appears to be exacerbating these tensions and may have weakened Ukraine’s government infrastructure at a critical time.

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