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Cyberattack hits Ukrainian banks and government websites

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy holds a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda in Kyiv, Ukraine February 23, 2022.

Umit Bektas | Reuters

Several Ukrainian government websites were offline Wednesday as a result of a mass distributed denial of service attack, Mykhailo Fedorov, head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, said in his Telegram channel.

The attack, which also impacted some banks, began around 4 p.m. local time, according to Fedorov. He didn’t say which banks were attacked or what the extent of the damage was.

Websites for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet of Ministers and Rada, the country’s parliament, were among those down as of Wednesday morning Eastern time. The government sites were offline as officials attempted to switch traffic elsewhere to minimize damage, he said.

A DDoS attack is when a hacker floods a victim’s network or server with traffic so that others are unable to access it.

The source of the attack is not yet confirmed but the outages come as Russia continues to position troops around Ukraine’s borders. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said Russia has begun “an invasion,” after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and announced sanctions on Russian banks, the country’s sovereign debt and several individuals close to the Russian government.

A White House spokesperson told NBC News they are “closely monitoring” the reports.

Ukraine reported a separate attack last week that took down four government websites, according to NBC News. Around the same time, Ukraine’s Cyber Police said many residents had received text messages saying that ATMs in the country did not work, though it was unclear if any ATMs were actually affected, NBC News reported.

The White House attributed the earlier attack to Russian agents, though Russia denied responsibility for last week’s attack on the Ukrainian government websites.

The White House official on Wednesday told NBC News, “we consider these further incidents to be consistent with the type of activity Russia would carry out in a bid to destabilize Ukraine. We are in communication with Ukraine regarding their cyber related needs, including as recently as today.” 

A representative for the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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