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Cyberwarfare in Ukraine brings life to a bone-chilling halt

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the headquarters of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev, Ukraine March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

Experts believe that hackers who vandalised and disrupted access to a number of Ukrainian government websites on Friday may be setting the stage for more significant hacks that disrupt the lives of regular Ukrainians.

The news: Hacker attacks on hospitals, electricity corporations, and the banking system were uncommon until lately. However, in the last two years, organised cybercriminals, many of whom are based in Russia, have targeted institutions aggressively with ransomware, freezing data and electronic equipment used to care for hospital patients.

  • According to litigation, media accounts, and medical specialists, extortion attacks have resulted in patient fatalities in several situations.
  • At a time when Russia has stockpiled nearly 100,000 troops near Ukraine, stoking fears in the West that it is considering an invasion, Friday’s attack on Ukrainian websites carried a warning to “be afraid and expect the worst.”
  • Moscow has denied any intention of invading.

What happened: Over the years, Russia has regularly denied hacking charges made by Ukraine and other countries. Russia has not been directly accused, despite being a suspect in the current web defacements.

  • In 2014, Russian troops invaded Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea, and annexed it from Ukraine.
  • In December 2015, a first-of-its-kind cyber-attack in western Ukraine knocked down electricity to 225,000 people, with hackers also damaging power distribution infrastructure, making restoration efforts more difficult.
  • The typical temperature in Ukraine during the winter is below freezing, and losing heat can be fatal. In several towns, outages during the 2015 strike reportedly lasted six hours.
  • According to officials, hackers targeted Ukrainian state institutions 6,500 times in the last two months of 2016. According to the administration, the hacks demonstrated that Russian security agencies were engaged in a cyberwar against Ukraine.
  • For several days, the State Treasury’s systems were down, preventing state employees and retirees from receiving their salaries or payments on schedule.
  • Experts believe the cyberattacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure are the first instances of hackers shutting down major energy systems that give heat and light to millions of people.

What they’re saying: Former CrowdStrike cybersecurity chief Dmitri Alperovitch said that if Russia invaded again, more cyberattacks would follow.

He added that they would most likely be disruptive rather than lethal.

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