Ukraine hit by cyber attack: Ministry and banks sites offline

Two Ukrainian banks and the Ministry of Defense were hit by a cyberattack on Tuesday. The websites of the authorities were so overloaded that they were offline. This is reported by Reuters news agency, among others. It is not known who is responsible for the attacks, but Russian involvement has not been ruled out.

Sites affected by DDoS attack

Ukrainian authorities reported a so-called DDoS attack on Tuesday. DDoS stands for  Distributed Denial of Service. In these types of attacks, a website has to deal with a huge amount of visitors, usually from a botnet, which overloads the site. The result is that the website becomes very slow, or even goes offline.

The website of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense showed a message on its homepage stating that it was undergoing maintenance. The ministry said on Twitter that the website was apparently a cyber-attack and said it was working to restore access.

Two banks, Oschadbank and PrivatBank, were also offline due to a DDoS attack. Oschadbank confirmed the cyber attack and said it resulted in some systems slowing down. According to the strategic communication centre, PrivatBank customers had problems with payments and with the bank’s app. In the end, the websites of the banks and the ministry were inaccessible for hours.

Cyber-attacks may have been carried out by Russia

While it is not clear who is behind the attacks, Ukrainian authorities are pointing to Russia. “It cannot be ruled out that the aggressor has turned to a tactic of small dirty tricks because his aggressive plans do not work on a large scale,” the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, which is part of the Ministry of Culture, said in a statement.

Tensions between Ukraine and neighbouring Russia have been running high for some time. Leaders in the West fear a Russian invasion that will damage the entire region. Tensions between the countries are increasing, not only in the military field but also digitally. Ukraine is repeatedly faced with cyber attacks. Earlier this year, a major cyberattack hit several Ukrainian government websites.

In view of the crisis in Ukraine, the European Central Bank (ECB) warned last week about the danger of cyber-attacks initiated by Russia. Ukraine receives help from several western countries. The United States and Britain sent cyberwarfare experts to Ukraine in late December to help the country defend itself against Russia. The Netherlands is also prepared to send cyber experts to Ukraine to help with cyber security.

Update (February 17, 2022): The DDoS attacks that hit two Ukrainian banks and the Ministry of Defense were of “unprecedented scale”. According to the government, the country has never been attacked by hackers on such a large scale before. Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Affairs, told international media that the hackers were well prepared and had only one goal in mind: to cause chaos and destabilization.

Given the scale, Fedorov suspects that “a country” is behind the cyber attacks. Which country that is he keeps in the middle. Security experts believe Russia is responsible for this, but the Kremlin vehemently denies having anything to do with it.

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