Ukraine is ‘99.9%’ sure Russia was behind a massive cyberattack on Ukrainian government websites and the hack could signal another physical invasion will follow, top official says from the president’s security to Sky News.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, revealed that certain sectors of the government’s security and defense departments have been placed on an even higher state of alert than usual. in the event of new hostilities.
He noted that the cyberattack was a “school” advance before real-world military action.
When asked if a new Russian invasion could take place as early as the weekend, Mr Danilov replied: “It can happen any day. Again, it only depends on one person – [Russian President] Vladimir Poutine.”
The senior official said in an exclusive interview that the hack began at 2 a.m. local time on Friday and only an hour later was reported in Russia.
They ‘should have slept at that time because it was 3 a.m.’, he said, speaking outside the National Security and Defense Council building in a heavily guarded compound in Kyiv. .
“Their number one task for today is to turn our internal situation around.”
The attack, which affected around 70 government websites, issued a warning to the public to “be afraid and expect the worst”.
It came as Russia continued to amass some 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders despite a week of high-stakes diplomacy with the United States and other NATO allies aimed at trying to defuse the crisis but which, as feared, produced no breakthrough.
Mr. Danilov seemed to have little doubt about the identity of the person responsible for the cyberattack.
“We can clearly follow their signature. It is the Russian specialists who carry out these actions,” he said.
When asked directly if he believed Russia was behind the hack, he replied, “I’m 99.9% sure.”
Russia has in the past denied allegations that it carried out hostile cyberattacks.
On whether he thought it was a first shot before a physical attack, Mr Danilov said: “It’s like that according to the playbook. Destabilization, destabilization, destabilization and after that comes the action . It’s written like that in all the textbooks.”
Mr Danilov, who turns 60 this year, making him, he said, the longest-serving official advising President Volodymyr Zelensky, stressed that his country was no stranger to hostilities.
It has endured a war with Russia for the past eight years, since Moscow annexed Crimea and supported an insurgency in the east of the country.
When asked if he had a message for Mr Putin, the senior security official replied: “It’s quite simple: please get your soldiers and weapons out of our territory and bring – them at home.
“You have your own business to take care of, a huge trouble awaits you there. If you don’t manage your country sooner or later it will collapse and it will happen before our eyes.”
He added: “Ukrainians are peaceful, we have never attacked anyone. We only defend ourselves all the time. Moreover, I am more than sure that victory will be ours because the truth is on our side, and the truth always wins.”
In another part of Kyiv, cyber officials were busy hacking into a newly built cybersecurity center.
This is the public part of Ukraine’s cyber defense capability – an area that has been significantly improved, with the help of the US and UK, since Ukraine suffered previous large-scale cyberattacks. scale, attributed to Russia. These attacks coincided with previous Russian military action against the country from 2014.
A senior cybersecurity official, speaking at the center, said British and US officials were the first to contact Ukraine and offer help in responding to the attack.
Asked if that offer had been accepted, Lt. Col. Yurii Shchyhol, chairman of Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection, told Sky News: “Yes They help us with their experience, skills and specialists.
“We are trying to restore everything and I think we will soon.”
In addition to responding to the hack, officials at the center were also training to bolster Ukraine’s defenses for the next.
Viktor Zhora, vice president of the service which focuses on digital development, said Ukraine experiences around 50,000 cyberattacks a week, but one as serious as Friday’s hack only happens every two to three years. .
He said Ukraine’s cyber defenses are generally sufficient to deal with hacks, but no country is immune.
“When you have a lot of resources, when you have a huge army of cyber professionals who are basically cyber-terrorists, then it’s easy to hack into even the most secure infrastructure,” he said.
Ukraine does not have offensive cyber weapons to retaliate, but the official said he was ready to defend against further assaults from Russia.
“Everyone does their job – our soldiers in the east [of Ukraine] protect our borders and we protect Ukrainian cyberspace here.”