A huge cyberattack on Ukraine has targeted more than a dozen government websites, with suspected Russian hackers leaving a message warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst”.
The hack comes amid heightened tensions between Ukraine and its neighbour Russia, which has amassed approximately 100,000 soldiers at the border between the two countries.
“As a result of a massive hacking attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies are temporarily down. Our specialists are already working on restoring the work of IT systems,” a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
They confirmed that the government had launched an investigation into the attack, saying it is “too early to draw conclusions” about the culprit.
But the spokesperson added that “there is a long record of Russian cyberassaults against Ukraine”.
The Ukrainian state services website, which holds citizens’ electronic passports and their vaccine certificates, is among the platforms affected.
However, the country’s authorities have said that this personal data has not been compromised, as had been claimed by hackers in a threatening message – written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish – left on the websites they had disabled.
“Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” it read.
“All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future,” the message concluded.
On Friday morning, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, condemned the cyberattack and said the bloc would support Kiev. “We are going to mobilise all our resources to help Ukraine to tackle this cyberattack. Sadly, we knew it could happen,” he told reporters at a gathering of EU foreign leaders in Brest, France.
“It’s difficult to say [who is behind it]. I can’t blame anybody as I have no proof, but we can imagine,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Swedish foreign minister, Ann Linde, said the west would be firm with Russia and would support Ukraine against any aggression from Moscow.
The large-scale hacking of Ukrainian government websites followed unsuccessful diplomatic talks this week between Russia and the west about the situation in Europe.
One of the most intractable issues is Moscow’s demand that Nato removes troops from countries bordering Russia and stops accepting new members – stipulations that have been rebuffed by the west.
Speaking of the impasse, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that his country had “run out of patience”.
“The west has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense,” he claimed.
Agencies have contributed to this report