Ukraine defence ministry hit by huge cyber attack amid fears of war with Russia

Russia says that there will be ‘no escalation’ but Boris Johnson says the country is sending ‘mixed signals’

Adam Smith
Wednesday 16 February 2022 11:22
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The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has suffered a cyber attack that took its website down and crashed two Ukrainian banks.

In a tweet, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said that it was a victim of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that it was working to resume normal working order.

A DDoS attack directs huge amounts of web traffic to a single website or online service in order to cause it to crash.

The attack came as Russia had been amassing troops on the border of the two countries. Moscow recently announced it was withdrawing troops from the border following the completion of military drills, although the US, UK and Nato have warned that an attack is still possible.

Simultaneously, PrivatBank and Oschadbank faced a “massive DDoS attack” that stopped customers accessing their payments and balance inquiries online; however, the banks said that there was no threat to depositors’ funds. This outage lasted for a few hours before the banks came back online.

Declassified intelligence reports cited in the Washington Postalleged that Russian government hackers have likely infiltrated the Ukrainian military, and energy computer networks.

This could be to either disrupt military operations or attempt to destabilise the country.

It specified, however, that it is possible that Russia could undertake that action – not that it is guaranteed that it would. Some online cyber researchers also suggested caution about foregone conclusions regarding Russia’s cyberwarfare.

“The DDoS isn’t part of the invasion, calm down people”, security analyst Matt Tait tweeted, adding that it was “not strategic or kinetic, and not a signifier of anything useful on invasion timing.”

Cisco’s director of threat intelligence Matthew Olney is also quoted as saying the action may be to “keep a sense of pressure on Ukraine in the face of more positive news over the past day”.

Whether there will be further escalation remains to be seen, but Russia’s envoy to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov has said that “As far as Russia is concerned, I can assure you that there will be no attack this Wednesday”.

He also said that there will be “no escalation in the coming week either, or in the week after that, or in the coming month” and that “Wars in Europe rarely start on a Wednesday.”

However Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that the “intelligence we are seeing today is still not encouraging” and that hospitals that are being close to the Belarus border can only be "construed as preparation for an invasion" – describing Russia’s messages as “mixed signals”.

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