Hackers on Friday temporarily shut down dozens of Ukrainian government websites, causing no major damage but adding to simmering tensions while Russia amasses troops on the Ukraine border. Separately, in a rare gesture to the U.S. at a time of chilly relations, Russia said it had arrested members of a major ransomware gang that targeted U.S. entities.
The events, though seemingly unrelated, came during a frenetic period of activity as the U.S. publicly accused Moscow of preparing a further invasion of Ukraine and of creating a pretext to do so. They underscored how cybersecurity remains a pivotal concern — that the escalating animosity risks not only actual violence but also damaging digital attacks that could affect Ukraine or even the U.S.
The White House said Friday that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the disruptions, which targeted about 70 websites of national and regional government bodies, but it did not indicate who might be responsible.
But even without any attribution of responsibility, suspicions were cast on Russia, with its history of peppering Ukraine with damaging cyberattacks. Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, said preliminary results of an investigation indicated involvement of “hacker groups linked to Russia’s intelligence services.” It said most of the websites had resumed operations, and that content was not altered and personal data not leaked. The SBU said the culprits “hacked the infrastructure of a commercial company that had access, with administrator privileges, to websites affected by the attack.”
The White House said it was still assessing the impact of the defacements but described it as “limited” so far. A senior administration official, meanwhile, said the White House welcomed news of the arrests in Russia of alleged ransomware gang members, an operation Moscow said was done at the request of U.S. authorities.
The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said one of those arrested was linked to the hack of Colonial Pipeline that resulted in days of gas shortages in parts of the U.S. last year. The arrests are thought by the White House to be unrelated to the Russia-Ukraine tension, according to the official.
Ukraine: Government websites down after a hacking attack Associated Press