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Ukrainian officials investigating Tuesday’s cyberattacks that brought down websites belonging to its Ministry of Defense, army and popular banks are now calling the incident the “largest” of its kind in the history of the country – and suspect Russia is the culprit.
The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks come as U.S. and NATO continue to cast doubt on Russian claims that some of its 150,000 troops amassed along its border with Ukraine are heading back to their permanent bases.
“Russia has engaged in cyberattacks and electronic warfare in terms of a precursor to physical and kinetic activity,” Frank Cilluffo, the director of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security at Auburn University, told Fox News Digital on Wednesday, citing past cyberattacks in Georgia and Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The Independence Monument is seen over Kyiv’s Maidan Square in front of a Ukrainian national flag that was displayed on the occasion of the Day of Unity, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
“A DDoS attack can be pretty effective if utilized in support of other means. It’s not about the attack itself, but if you are able to disrupt communications of some sort, and then you have ulterior motives, then clearly it can be effective,” he added. “And Russia did do this to Estonia in the past, massive DDoS attacks on the banking sector and the Estonian government.”
Tuesday’s cyberattacks targeted at least 10 Ukrainian websites and customers at the state-owned Privatbank and Sberbank reported issues with online payments and the banks’ apps, according to the Associated Press.
“Yesterday, on February 15, the largest DDoS attack in the history of Ukraine was carried out on government websites, on the banking sector,” Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“This attack is unprecedented, it was prepared in advance,” he reportedly continued, mentioning how the attacks – designed to flood websites with traffic and shut them down — involved IP addresses from Russia, China, Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic. “And the key goal of this attack is destabilization, it is to sow panic, to do everything so that a certain chaos appears in our country.”
llya Vityuk, who leads the cybersecurity department of Ukraine’s state security service said Wednesday that “the only country that is interested in such… attacks on our state, especially against the backdrop of massive panic about a possible military invasion, the only country that is interested is the Russian Federation,” Reuters also reported.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, denied Russian involvement but said it wasn’t surprised Ukraine would try to blame them, according to Reuters.
A senior U.S. State Department official told Fox News on Tuesday that “we have reached out to Ukrainian counterparts to offer support in their investigation of and response to these incidents.”
Fox News’ Gillian Turner contributed to this report.