Cyberattack hits Ukraine government websites amid tensions with Russia

Officials say personal data was not affected and most services have been restored.

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Kris Holt
January 14th, 2022
In this article: news, gear, hackers, ukraine, nato, cyberattack, russia
A laptop screen displays a warning message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, that appeared on the official website of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry after a massive cyberattack, in this illustration taken January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/Illustration
Valentyn Ogirenko / reuters

Hackers have hit around 70 Ukraine government department websites, forcing many of them offline. A message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish on the country's foreign ministry site reportedly read "Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them.”

The page referenced "historical land" and featured crossed-out versions of Ukraine map and flag. "All information about you has become public, be afraid and wait for the worst. This is for you for your past, present and future," the message is said to have read. Along with the foreign ministry site, the state emergency service, state treasury and the ministries of education, foreign affairs, sport, energy, agrarian policy, veterans and environment were reportedly targeted.

However, Ukraine's security service told CNN that personal data was not affected. It noted that most services have been restored. 

According to the Ukrainian Information Ministry, early indications suggest the Russian Federation carried out the attack. "This is not the first time or even the second time that Ukrainian Internet resources have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian military aggression," the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy suggested that references to Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups in the message were an attempt by hackers to mask the "Russian footprint." The ministry added that "It is obvious that this was done on purpose to cast a shadow over the hacker attack on Poland: Russia and its proxies have been working for a long time to create the quarrel between two friendly neighboring countries."

Hackers believed to be from Russia have targeted other parts of Ukraine's infrastructure in recent years. In 2015, an attack took out parts of the power grid. Since then, Russia was also blamed for attacks on Ukraine's weapon supply and the Kiev airport. The NotPetya cyberattack, for which the US charged Russian hackers in 2020, impacted the Ukrainian government and banking system, a state power distributor and an airport, as well as entities in Russia and the US.

The latest attack took place as Russia mobilizes 100,000 troops to Ukraine's border. Western allies fear Russia will again invade Ukraine, following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Attempts by the US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to de-escalate the situation in talks with Russia this week haven't proven successful. Russia’s lead envoy said the discussions hit a dead end.

Although Russia has denied plans to attack Ukraine, it said it may take action if its demands aren't met. Among those is an assurance that Ukraine and Georgia won't join NATO.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, condemned the cyberattack on Ukraine. He said NATO has been working with the country for years to bolster its cyber defenses and that the two sides will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation in the coming days. As part of that, the country will gain access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform.

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