The websites of critical government organs such as the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ukrainian parliament have been crippled by a new wave of cyberattacks since around 4 p.m. (1400GMT) today, Ukraine-based journalists said.
As painful geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate and Russia’s bilateral relations with the West fall to pieces, military operations, and cyberattacks are becoming more heated in the region. Today’s attacks add to earlier waves of cyber-disruptions that took place throughout January as well as earlier this month.
Earlier this week, Russia firmly emphasized that they recognize two regions in Ukraine as independent countries. This resulted in coordinated sanctions and pressure from the United States and the EU, evident in sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and blockage of Russian financial institutions and businesses in the U.S.
Major Ukrainian Government Portals Unresponsive
Ukraine-based journalist Anastasiia Lapatina posted on Twitter late this afternoon, stating that Ukraine is “likely under another cyber attack” which has led to the shutdown of the “website of MFA, Cabinet of Ministers, and the parliament.”
Adding to the crippled government portals, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Security Service of Ukraine are also experiencing “difficulties.”
The Chairman of the Ukrainian parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk reported that his private email and financial accounts, as well as his family’s accounts, were under cyberattack, Lapatina said.
Local financial institutions are also being targeted by attacks and are going down according to Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov.
Cyberattacks Appear to be DDoS Attacks
The type of cyberattack in question is a DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service that is a popular attack vector during tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
The network incidents appear to be “consistent with recent DDOS attacks” network disruption tracking platform NetBlocks reported via Twitter.
However, the attacks today seem to be “similar but distinct from the recent DDOS attack targeting defence and banking platforms” said NetBlocks director Alp Toker.
NATO has attributed the cyberattacks in Ukraine to Russia’s “GRU,” the foreign military intelligence agency of the Russian Federation.
The U.S. Response
The attacks come as the Ukrainian government implements a 30-day state of emergency following Russian President Putin’s move to recognize the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, which was widely received as aggression by the West.
Last week, the Joe Biden administration had accused Russia of cyberattacks on Ukrainian targets. The Deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology Anne Neuberger stated there was direct evidence to support this.
Russia’s intelligence agency “was seen transmitting high volumes of communication to Ukraine-based IP addresses and domains” a White House press briefing stated.
On the Brink of War?
Whether this is a preamble to a ground attack or yet another regional spat is unknown at present. However, some US officials in the Pentagon believe that is going to be the pattern. Ukrainian and U.S. citizens have been told to leave Russia immediately by their respective governments.
At present, it looks like Russia is “preparing to conduct a full-scale invasion of the neighboring country within the next 48 hours” Newsweek said.