Cybersecurity

Ukrainian websites hit by cyberattack amid tensions with Russia

Several Ukrainian government websites were hit by what officials called a “massive cyberattack” on Friday as hackers took control and posted messages warning Ukraine to “be afraid and expect worse.”

In the early hours of Friday morning, Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted that “the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down” from the cyberattack.

“Our specialists have already started restoring the work of IT systems, and the cyberpolice has opened an investigation,” he wrote.

According to a translation of one of the messages that appeared on a government computer, hackers issued a warning to Ukrainians.

“Ukrainians!” it flashed. “All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect worse.”

The cyberattack comes as long talks between Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. wrapped up this week without any definitive answers. Russia has been amassing thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border, and Western allies have warned the nation not to invade Ukraine.

In the negotiations, Russia pushed the U.S. not to include Ukraine in NATO, the Western defense and security alliance. But that was reportedly rejected and on Thursday, officials warned of a potential impending war between Ukraine and Russia.

A foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters it was too early to tell who was behind Friday’s cyberattack but pointed out that Russia has been behind similar attacks before.

Russia was suspected as behind the 2017 cyberattack on Ukrainian banks and government systems, which were infected by the NotPetya ransomware virus.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden has been briefed on the cyberattack and that the U.S. government has not attributed the attack to a specific actor at this time.

“The United States and our allies and partners are concerned about this cyberattack and the president has been briefed,” Psaki told reporters. “We are also in touch with the Ukrainians and have offered our support as Ukraine investigates the impact and nature and recovers from the incident.”

— Morgan Chalfant contributed.

Updated: 12:35 p.m.

Cybersecurity