“As a result of a massive cyber attack, the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of other government agencies have been temporarily disrupted,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on his official Twitter account on Friday.
“Our specialists have already begun to restore the work of IT systems, and the cyber police has opened an investigation,” he added.
“According to an investigation by the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, the first data indicate that the attack was carried out by the Russian Federation,” the Ukrainian Information Ministry said in a statement.
“This is not the first time, or even the second time, that Ukrainian Internet resources have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian military aggression,” she added.
Most of the affected state’s resources have already been restored, according to Ukraine’s Security Service, which said personal data had not been hacked.
Early Friday morning local time, Ukrainian government websites, including that of the Foreign Ministry, displayed darkened screens with threatening text saying that the personal information of Ukrainians had been hacked.
The message, posted in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, read “Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer has been destroyed, and it is impossible to restore.”
“All information about you is made public, fear and wait for the worst. This is yours for your past, present and future. For Volhynia, for OUN UIA [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists Ukrainian Insurgent Army]For Galicia, Polis, and Historic Lands,” the webpage reads.
The UIA and OUN were Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups that fought for independence during the Soviet era, while Galicia, Volhynia and Polissy were among the regions from which they had historically received high levels of support.
A statement from Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy suggested that the text mentioned groups and regions as “a means of concealing the ‘Russian footprint’ of hackers.”
“It is clear that this was done on purpose to cast a shadow over the pirate attack on Poland: Russia and its proxies have long been working to stir up discord between two neighboring and friendly countries,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Ukrainian Security Service said in a statement that despite the “dissemination of provocative messages on the main page of these sites”, the content of the sites did not change, adding that “the leakage of personal data, according to preliminary information, did not happen. . ”
Websites of the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, Sports, Energy, Agricultural Policy, Veterans Affairs, the Environment, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and the State Treasury have been targeted, according to state media Ukrinform.
The Ministry of Education and Science, whose official website has been disabled, directed citizens to use the official social media channels of the ministry on Friday while resolving the issue.
The head of Ukraine’s Technical Security and Intelligence Service, Yury Shchigul, said that nearly 70 websites of central and regional authorities had been affected.
“Each of these sites appears to have been developed on behalf of the government of Ukraine by a Ukrainian company called Kitsoft,” Matt Olney, director of threat intelligence and interdiction at Talos, the threat intelligence unit at tech giant Cisco, told CNN. “While it is clearly unfortunate, we do not see this event alone as indicating an increase or decrease [cyber] danger in Ukraine.
Kitsoft, a Kiev-based software company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
While the Ukrainian government has suggested Russian involvement in the hack, outside experts say they cannot identify this source without forensic evidence.
Oleh Derevianko, founder of Kiev-based cybersecurity firm ISSP, said he was not surprised by the defamation of government websites.
“It’s a good illustration of how a simple smear attack can be used as a practical media tool when everyone is so nervous and excited about a potential invasion,” he told CNN.
Attacks add to an ‘already tense situation’
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, condemned the cyber attack, warning that it was contributing to the “already tense situation” in the region.
During a joint press conference with the French Foreign Minister in Brest, France, on Friday, Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said he held an emergency meeting upon learning of the attack on Ukrainian government sites.
“Such measures aimed at destabilizing Ukraine contribute to the further escalation of the already tense situation,” Borrell said.
When asked whether Russian state or non-state actors were behind the attacks, Borrell replied that while he didn’t want to “point the finger,” there was “a certain possibility where they came from.”
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Friday that it was “too early to draw conclusions” on who was behind the attack, but said there was a “long record of Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine in the past”.
In a separate context, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry claimed in a statement Friday that the Russian special forces are preparing provocations against soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces in order to accuse Ukraine.
“The military units of the aggressor country and its kinship are receiving orders to prepare for such provocations,” the ministry’s intelligence directorate said in a statement.
CNN has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on both allegations.
Tensions with Russia are at their peak
The United States and Russia met this week for high-stakes talks aimed at averting war, as Russia continued to mass troops near Ukraine’s borders amid a dispute over NATO activities in Eastern Europe and the possibility of Ukraine joining the military alliance.
Ukraine has said Russia is trying to destabilize the country before any planned military invasion, and Western powers have repeatedly warned Russia against any further aggressive moves.
The Kremlin denies it is planning an attack and says NATO’s support for Ukraine – including increased arms supplies and military training – poses a growing threat to Russia’s western flank.
A senior US official warned that “the drums of war are beating loudly” after a week of talks that ended Thursday without clear breakthroughs.
Russian officials have indicated they are willing to abandon discussions about the US and NATO’s refusal to meet Moscow’s main demands: ensuring that Ukraine is never allowed to join NATO and that the alliance rolls back its expansion into Eastern Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference, Friday, that while Moscow’s proposals were “aimed at reducing military confrontation, and calming the general situation in Europe, the exact opposite is happening in the West.”
He said: “We absolutely do not accept the emergence of NATO on our borders, especially given the path taken by the Ukrainian leadership – both by past and current ones. These are really the red lines and they know he-she.”
Katharina Krebs reported from Kiev and Jake Kwon reported from Seoul. Jeremy Herb, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood, Sean Lingas, Sam Kelly and Dalal Moawad contributed reporting.