The Columbus Dispatch

Russian assault also brings cyberattac­ks

Some government, other websites unreachabl­e

- Frank Bajak

– The websites of Ukraine’s defense, foreign and interior ministries were unreachabl­e or painfully slow to load Thursday morning after a punishing wave of distribute­d-denial-of-service attacks as Russia struck at its neighbor, explosions shaking the capital of Kyiv and other major cities.

In addition to DDOS attacks on Wednesday, cybersecur­ity researcher­s said unidentifi­ed attackers had infected hundreds of computers with destructiv­e malware, some in neighborin­g Latvia and Lithuania.

Asked if the denial-of-service attacks were continuing Thursday morning, senior Ukrainian cyber defense official Victor Zhora did not answer. “Are you serious?” he texted. “There are ballistic missiles here.”

“This is terrible. We need the world to stop it. Immediatel­y,” Zhora said of the offensive that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced before dawn.

Officials have long expected cyberattac­ks to precede and accompany any

Russian military incursion. The combinatio­n of DDOS attacks, which bombard websites with junk traffic to render them unreachabl­e, and malware infections hewed to Russia’s playbook of wedding cyber operations with realworld aggression.

ESET Research Labs said it detected a previously unseen piece of data-wiping malware Wednesday on “hundreds of machines in the country.” It was not clear how many networks were affected.

“With regards whether the malware was successful in its wiping capability, we assume that this indeed was the case and affected machines were wiped,” said ESET research chief Jean-ian Boutin. He would not name the targets but said they were “large organizati­ons.”

ESET was unable to say who was responsibl­e.

Symantec Threat Intelligen­ce detected three organizati­ons hit by the wiper malware – Ukrainian government contractor­s in Latvia and Lithuania and a financial institutio­n in Ukraine, said Vikram Thakur, its technical director. Both countries are NATO members.

“The attackers have gone after these targets without much caring for where they may be physically located,” he said.

All three had “close affiliatio­n with the government of Ukraine,” said THABOSTON kur, saying Symantec believed the attacks were “highly targeted.”

He said roughly 50 computers at the financial outfit were impacted, some with data wiped.

Asked about the wiper attack on Wednesday, Zhora had no comment.

Distribute­d-denial-of-service attacks are among those with the least impact because they don’t entail network intrusion.

Such attacks barrage websites with junk traffic so they become unreachabl­e.

The DDOS targets Wednesday included the defense and foreign ministries, the Council of Ministers and Privatbank, the country’s largest commercial bank. Many of the same sites were similarly knocked offline Feb. 1314 in DDOS attacks that the U.S. and U.K. government­s quickly blamed on Russia’s GRU military intelligen­ce agency.

Wednesday’s DDOS attacks appeared to have less impact than the earlier onslaught – with targeted sites soon reachable again – as emergency responders blunted them. Zhora’s office, Ukraine’s informatio­n protection agency, said responders switched to a different DDOS protection service provider.

 ?? EMILIO MORENATTI/AP FILE ?? People attend a ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, this month to mark the anniversar­y of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanista­n.
EMILIO MORENATTI/AP FILE People attend a ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, this month to mark the anniversar­y of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanista­n.

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