Is Russia Behind Ukraine Cyber Attack?

In looking at just where the cyber attacks that hit the Ukraine and spread around the world last week may have originated, the Ukraine has pointed a finger at Russia.

That assessment comes from the Ukraine’s state security apparatus, known as the SBU. The SBU also claimed that the Russian hackers were the same ones who had been behind a December 2016 attack on the country’s power infrastructure, and the sentiments were echoed by several of Ukraine’s politicians.  Russia’s own response has been one of denial.

Reuters reports that Ukraine officials said on Saturday that Russian security services were behind the attacks, which was aimed at destroying data and, as the newswire termed it, “spreading panic.”

A statement by the SBU said that the available data, including those obtained in cooperation with international antivirus companies, give us reason to believe that the same hacking groups are involved in the attacks, which in December 2016 attacked the financial system, transport and energy facilities of Ukraine using TeleBots and BlackEnergy.”

“This testifies to the involvement of the special services of Russian Federation in this attack.”

The attack, as has been widely reported, came via computer worm, which has been unofficially christened NotPetya.  The worm was used against banks and shipping firms, among other entities.  Similar to ransomware seen in recent months, NotPetya encrypted data stored on those computers and demanded a ransom to the tune of several hundred dollars

One caveat as noted by Reuters is that the malware also hit Russian computers, leading at least some observers to state that Russia was not behind the attack.  As Reuters stated, Rosneft, which is a major Russian oil firm, said that it had been hit by the virus, and Gazprom, the state gas company, also had been affected, said the newswire, citing unnamed sources.

But if the charges lobbed at Russia are true, they would show that the cyberattacks open up a new front in tensions between Russia and Kiev, where boots on the ground – recall that Moscow annexed Crimea three years ago – have been complemented by bits and bytes.