Ukraine Defense Ministry, banks hit by cyberattack amid tensions with Russia

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday said it had been hit with a cyberattack amid heightened tensions with Russia and concerns Moscow could launch aggressive actions against the country, including a potential ground invasion. 

In addition, at least two Ukrainian banks and some ATMs lost connectivity, according the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, which is part of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, Reuters reported

Netblocks, a watchdog group monitoring cybersecurity and global internet connectivity, confirmed that real-time network data showed a loss of connectivity to Ukraine’s State Savings Bank, impacting ATM and banking services.  

Ukrainian officials did not assign blame for the attack but a statement suggested Russia could be behind it, Reuters reported, as the country has earlier come under cyberattacks from Moscow. 

“It is not ruled out that the aggressor used tactics of little dirty tricks because its aggressive plans are not working out on a large scale,” the statement read.

In January, Ukrainian officials blamed Russia for a cyberattack on government websites, with Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Development saying in a statement that “Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war and is actively building up its forces in the information and cyberspaces.” 

The U.S. and its allies and partners in Europe have raised alarms that Russia could use a cyberattack against Ukraine as one area of aggression on top of the estimated 130,000 ground troops it has on the eastern and northern borders of Ukraine, as well as war ships in the Black Sea. 

Russia denies that it has any intention to invade Ukraine and says the troops are part of large-scale military exercises. The country’s defense minister has said the exercises are coming to a close. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also offered tacit openness to ongoing diplomacy with the West to address what he says are Moscow’s security concerns of Ukraine’s closer alignment with NATO members.

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