Click play to listen to this article
Europe on Friday scrambled to bolster Kiev’s cyber security services as it battles an attack on Ukrainian government sites.
Although no group was immediately identified as responsible, the attacks on official websites come with the massing of some 100,000 Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a possible invasion. Cutting off communications would be a predictable prelude to a military attack.
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, was quick to hint at the Kremlin’s involvement. Although he noted that the attacker remains unknown, he said “one can know” who was behind the website raid.
He added that the bloc “will mobilize all our resources to help Ukraine confront these cyber attacks.”
A State Department spokesman said the websites of the State Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education had been downed due to a “mass hacking attack”. chirp Friday – a day after diplomatic talks between Russia and the West ended in a stalemate.
Unknown hackers defaced and paralyzed several Ukrainian government websites on Friday. And she wrote a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish before deleting the page: “Ukrainians, fear and prepare for the worst. All your personal data has been uploaded to the web.” The Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Education websites were still down at the time of writing, as were the websites of Ukrainian embassies and missions around the world.
European Union on Friday He called the Political and Security Committee (PSC), a body that deals with security and defense, to meet in an emergency meeting to discuss “how we can provide technical assistance to Ukraine to increase its resilience against these types of attacks,” Borrell told reporters in Brest, France on the sidelines of an informal meeting. for foreign ministers.
According to some diplomats, a decision is not expected at the PSC meeting in the afternoon because Ukraine still has to investigate who was behind the attack and also determine what kind of help it needs. However, an advertisement has been proposed and one option is to send in experts. Diplomats note that the European Union last month approved a €31 million grant to Ukraine (coming from the European Peace Facility, an off-budget tool that allows the bloc to do more on defense and security) aimed at providing support on the Internet.
The bloc’s top diplomat said EU countries participating in a joint military project on cyber defense would be asked to step in and help Ukraine.
Friday’s attack put security officials on high alert over what might come next. Ukraine has been the target of large-scale cyberattacks that have been attributed in the past to groups backed by the Russian state. Western intelligence blamed Russian officials for shutting down Ukrainian power grids in 2015 and 2016 and unleashing a global ransomware attack called NotPetya from Ukraine in 2017. The European Union imposed sanctions on Russian intelligence officials in July 2020 over the latest attack.
Although officials did not call on Russia to perpetrate Friday’s cyber attack, it fits with the country’s strategy as it negotiates with Western powers over an escalating crisis on Ukraine’s borders.
“For Russia, this is a show of strength,” said Merle Meijer, former head of the NATO Electronic Center of Excellence in Tallinn and a cybersecurity expert who has worked in Ukraine. “It’s a textbook example that shows how cyber-attacks are part of foreign policy.”
But it added that it was less risky than expected for a military action against Ukraine.
However, officials fear that the cyber attack could be a precursor to a military operation by Russia.
“We have to be very firm in our messages to Russia that if there are attacks against Ukraine, we will be very tough, very strong and strong in our response,” Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said in Brest, although she also added that “of course, we have to see.” Who is responsible for that”.
Her comments were echoed by Marcin Przydach, Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland, who told POLITICO that “we need not only provide our assistance to Ukraine, not only build our European flexibility in this area but send a clear signal to those who are behind it. Other aggressive steps, And also those that fall below the threshold of war, must meet our political, economic and diplomatic response.”
According to Bart Grouthuis, Member of the European Parliament and former cyber official of the Dutch Ministry of Defense, “We have to be calm. Offensive cyber forces should not be sent but we must speed up support to keep Ukrainian society running.”
“What is important now is that EU member states investigate who is behind these attacks, and that we come out,” because this means the EU can take steps such as sanctions and a diplomatic response, Grothuis said. “without [attribution] We pass without teeth.”
Jacopo Barigazi contributed from Brest, France.
Want more analysis from Politico? Politico Pro is an excellent intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to commerce, technology, cybersecurity, and more, Pro delivers real-time intelligence, deep insights, and the at-a-glance knowledge you need to go one step further. email [email protected] To request a free trial.