US and Britain blame Russia for cyberattacks on Ukraine's websites

Russia's GRU military intelligence agency carried out the attacks, they said.

Valentyn Ogirenko / reuters

Russia is responsible for the cyberattacks that took down the websites for Ukraine's government agencies and major banks back in January, according to The White House. Anne Neuberger, the administration's deputy national security adviser, said the government has "technical information that links the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU" to the hacks. Neuberger added that "GRU infrastructure was seen transmitting high volumes of communication to Ukraine based IP addresses and domains."

According to AP and Reuters, Britain has also publicly attributed the incident to Russia, saying that the country's GRU military intelligence agency is almost certainly involved. While the attacks managed to take down the targeted Ukrainian websites, Neuberger said they had "limited impact," thanks to the the country's officials that quickly secured and restored them.

Ukraine's defense and foreign ministries were among the affected websites, and a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish left by the attackers on the latter translated to: "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 message also referenced the "historical land" and showed crossed-out versions of the Ukraine map and flag.

The Ukrainian Information Ministry said back then that there were early indications Russia carried out the attacks. In addition, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy also suggested that references to Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups were merely an attempt by the Russians to mask their footprint.

Neuberger said the White House is publicly calling out Kremlin, because "[t]he global community must be prepared to shine a light on malicious cyber activity and hold actors accountable for any and all disruptive or destructive cyber activity." Although the attacks had "limited impact," the White House believes Russia could carry out more disruptive activities in the future followed by an invasion of Ukraine. President Biden has announced on Friday that the US has obtained intelligence showing that Russia's Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine in the coming days.