Hackers Bring Down Government Sites in Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine — Hackers brought down several Ukrainian government websites on Friday, posting a message on the site of the Foreign Ministry saying, “Be afraid and expect the worst.” It was the latest in a long line of cyberattacks targeting the country amid its conflict with Russia.

The attack on Friday was ominous for its timing, coming a day after the apparent breakdown of diplomatic talks between Russia and the West intended to forestall a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The move to post the message on the foreign ministry site in three languages seemed to be an effort to obfuscate the origins of the hackers and their motives, and shift blame and suspicion elsewhere.

The attack crippled the sites of the Cabinet of Ministers, and the ministries of energy, sports, agriculture, veterans’ affairs, and ecology, along with many other government websites.

Ukraine has long been viewed as a testing ground for Russian online operations, a sort of free-fire zone for cyberweaponry in a country already entangled in a real world shooting war with Russian-backed separatists in two eastern provinces.

Other types of malware like BlackEnergy, Industroyer and KillDisk, intended to sabotage computers used to control industrial processes, shut down electrical substations in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016, causing blackouts, including in the capital, Kyiv.

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