In-brief: NATO said it was extending support to Ukraine to help confront a rash of cyber attacks from Russian affiliated hacking forces.
The beleaguered government of Ukraine is finally getting help with what have become chronic, disruptive cyber attacks emanating from Russia.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said it will be extending cybersecurity help to the Ukrainian government in the wake of the June malware attacks that disrupted private and public sector institutions in the country, including banks and Ukrainian government agencies.
In a press conference in Kiev on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of Ukraine-NATO relations, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is “in the process of providing Ukraine with new equipment to some key government institutions” that would “help Ukraine investigate who is behind the different attacks,” the web site Cyberscoop reported. In a statement, NATO said it was standing up the NATO-Ukraine Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare and the second phase of the Cyber Defence (sp) Trust Fund, which are designed to improve the ability of the Ukrainian government to defend itself against a range of hostile actions by Russia.
The Ukrainian government’s SBU security services pinned blame for the Petya/NotPetya attacks on Russian security services. Speaking at the NATO event, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said the country has “evidence that a recent cyberattack was also organized by the Russian Federation,” and reiterated that country’s goal to join NATO. The Petya/NotPetya attacks, which began on June 27th disproportionately affected organizations within Ukraine. The attacks began with a compromise of a Ukrainian software vendor, M.E.Doc, and spread to customers initially as a malicious software update. More than three-quarters of all infections occurred within Ukraine, according to data from the firm ESET.
Ukraine’s national bank, state power company and largest airport were affected, making it impossible for Ukrainians to buy everything from subway tickets to groceries. The infection hit the companies outside the Ukraine as well, including shipping giant Maersk in The Netherlands as well as the U.S., Russia, Spain and France. The virus prompted FedEx to temporarily halt trading on fears of an outbreak, while the US candy maker Mondelez informed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the incident could have a material impact.
The Trump Administration has taken a tough line on destructive cyber attacks. Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University last month, the Trump Administration’s two leading advisors on cyber security policy called for a policy that imposes tough sanctions on nations and other actors who refuse to abide by international norms in cyber space.
However, the U.S. response to the Ukraine attacks of late June is unclear. NATO has not officially attributed the attack to Russia, though the organization said in a statement on June 30 that the attack could “most likely be attributed to a state actor.”
The Department of Homeland Security has issued warnings about the Petya malware but also has not gone so far as to attribute the attack to Moscow. Email and phone calls seeking comment from the White House on Petya were not returned prior to publication of this story.