Unidentified hackers brought down several public NATO websites with cyber attacks on Saturday, the alliance said, in what appeared to be the latest escalation in cyber warfare amid growing tensions over Crimea.
A group calling itself “cyber berkut” said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as interference by NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance - in their country.
The claim, made at www.cyber-berkut.org, could not immediately be independently verified. “Cyber berkut” is a reference to the feared and since-disbanded riot squads used by the government of ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
Occupied by Russian forces for over a week, the largely Russian-speaking Crimea holds a referendum on seceding from Ukraine to join Russia on Sunday. NATO states have opposed the move, calling it unconstitutional and effectively an annexation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
In a statement on its website www.cyber-berkut.org, the group said it had targeted three NATO websites over what it claimed was the alliance’s interference in Ukraine and support of the “Kiev junta”.
“We will not allow the presence of NATO in our homeland,” said the statement.
Cyber berkut - which some experts believe may be affiliated with Russian intelligence - published its statement in Russian rather than Ukrainian.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the websites had been taken down by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Under DDoS attacks, hackers hijack multiple computers to send a flood of data to the target, crippling its computer system.
“Our experts working to restore normal function,” she said on Twitter. “No operational impact... The attack hasn’t affected the integrity of NATO’s systems.”
John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the US Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute, said initial evidence strongly suggested that these cyber attacks were launched by pro-Russian sympathisers.
“One could equate these cyber attacks against NATO as kicking sand into one’s face,” he said.
Tensions between Moscow and the West have been rising steadily since Russia intervened following the ousting of Yanukovich. Ukrainian and Russian websites have both been targets for cyber attacks in recent weeks but this appeared to be the first major attack on a Western website since the crisis began.
Suspected Russian hackers used DDoS attacks to cripple websites and services in Estonia in 2007 during a dispute over a war memorial and against Georgia during its brief 2008 war with Russia. Moscow denied orchestrating such attacks, saying they were carried out by independent patriots.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-16