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‘Historic’ cyber attack hits Ukraine government and businesses

3 min

A massive cyber attack caused disruption across Europe on Tuesday, but hackers appeared to target Ukrainian government offices, infrastructure and key businesses in particular.


Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said the country was reeling from an “unprecedented” wave of cyber attacks, but added that the most important computer systems had not been affected.

"It was an unprecedented attack, but our IT experts are doing their work and protecting strategic infrastructure. Important systems have not been affected," Groysman said in a post on Facebook.

Britain's WPP, the world's biggest advertising agency, said it was among several companies affected by the attack. APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Dutch shipping giant Maersk, said 17 of its worldwide shipping container terminals had been hacked.

Russian steelmaker Evraz and top oil producer Rosnet also reported large-scale problems with their computer systems, although Evraz said its production was unaffected.

Disruptions linked to the cyber attack were also reported in France, Norway and the United States.

Public Ukrainian institutions and companies linked to the government in Kiev, nevertheless, appeared to bear the brunt of the multipronged digital assault.

Power grid, airport hit

An advisor to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also took to Facebook to say that the cyber attack was the worst in Ukraine’s history, adding that he believed it had originated from Russia.

Adviser Anton Gerashchenko said a version of the "WannaCry" ransomware had caused outages on government websites and those of several companies.

WannaCry is the virus that locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries in May.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said that the government’s computer network was down, and posted a picture on Twitter of a computer screen showing an error message.

The director of Kiev’s Boryspil airport said its IT system was affected by the attack and that some flights were delayed as a result.

Ukraine’s national power distributor Ukrenergo and state-run aircraft manufacturer Antonov also fell victim to hacks, although Ukrenergo said the disruption had no impact on power supplies or its broader operations.

The central bank also said that a number of commercial banks and state and private firms had been hit by an "unknown” computer virus, while expressing “confidence” in its cyber defences.

“As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations,” the central bank said in a statement.

Russian denial

The latest disruptions follow a spate of hacking attempts on state websites in Ukraine in late 2016 and repeated attacks on its power grid that prompted security chiefs to call for improved cyber defences.

Ukraine has blamed Russia for previous cyber attacks, including one on its power grid at the end of 2015 that left part of western Ukraine temporarily without electricity.

Cyber security experts consider Russia one of the world’s most advanced cyber powers, along with the United States, China, Israel, France and Britain.

Relations between Kiev and the Kremlin collapsed in 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting continues despite a ceasefire agreement.

Russia, nevertheless, denies carrying out cyber attacks on Ukraine and allegations it has fuelled the eastern conflict by supplying rebels with troops and weapons.


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