LVIV -- Powerful cyber attacks hit Ukraine Tuesday, freezing computers at banks, government agencies, post offices, TV stations, airplane manufacturer Antonov, and Kyiv’s metro and main airport. The attacks unfolded shortly after a car bomb in central Kyiv killed a member of the Defence Ministry’s main intelligence directorate Colonel Maksym Shapoval.
The attack was part of a wide-ranging cyber offensive against companies in Great Britain, France and Russia. One Russian company targeted was state oil giant Rosneft.
Ukraine seems to have been hit the hardest.
The attack is “the biggest in Ukraine’s history,” Anton Gerashchenko, an aide to the Interior Ministry, wrote on Facebook. He said the goal was “the destabilization of the economic situation and in the civic consciousness of Ukraine.”
Coming the day before Ukraine’s Constitution Day holiday, the cyber offensive targeted dozens of companies and agencies in Kyiv. Companies hit included UkrLandFarming, Avangardco and stores here of Germany's retailer, Metro. But it was felt in cities all over the country as computer systems went down and power grids were disrupted. At state-owned Oschadbank, one of the nation’s largest banks, payment terminals were blocked with messages demanding ransom money.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko wrote on his Facebook page that computers were down throughout the Cabinet of Ministers. Some computers displayed ransomware, demanding $300 in the crypto currency bitcoin to restore files. At the same time, card readers in the Kyiv Metro stopped working, causing lines that spilled out onto streets.
The National Bank of Ukraine, the central bank, reported that an “unknown virus” hit its computer systems, rendering it difficult for the bank to carry out financial operations. The bank vowed that the cyber attacks would be “neutralized.”
State power company Ukrenergo, which provides energy for much of Ukraine, reported that cyber attacks hit its computers. Despite unconfirmed reports of power disruptions in the regions, the company said that there were no disruptions in power supplies,
Kyivenergo, which provides energy for the city of Kyiv, was also attacked. In response, it shut down all computers.
Kyiv’s Boryspil airport was attacked, causing delays.
“The official airport site is not working,” wrote Director Yevhen Dykhne on Facebook. Referring to dark digital signboards, he said: “Up to date information on arrivals and departures are unavailable.”
Ukraine has blamed Russia for previous cyber attacks.
In December 2015, a major attack on Ukraine’s power grid left a quarter of a million people in the Ivano Frankivsk region without electricity in the middle of winter. Last December, a similar attack left a part of Kyiv without power for several hours.
Today, Ukrainian officials said their military adversary was behind the cyber warfare.
"Already on first analysis of the virus it is possible to talk of Russian fingerprints," the National Security and Defense Council quoted Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov as saying.
Tuesday’s attacks seem to have been foreshadowed last week in a cover story for Wired Magazine. Referring to Ukraine, the headline reads: “How an Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyberwar.”
In an article that drew great attention in the United States, cybersecurity experts theorized that Russia is using Ukraine as a “cyberwar testing ground - a laboratory for perfecting new forms of global online combat.”
Russia denies carrying out cyber attacks on Ukraine.
“Both sides will view this all with suspicion, i.e. inevitably blaming the and on the other,” Timothy Ash, Ukraine analyst for Blue Bay Asset Management in London, wrote Tuesday. “This might suggest that we may have seen the first occurrence of a cyber first strike, and then a retaliatory counter strike. With cyber salvoes going each way.”
The digital attacks came minutes after Kyiv was the scene of physical terrorist attack.
Colonel Shapoval, was killed instantly by a car bomb at 8:16 a.m. at a busy intersection in Solomyansky district, leaving his Mercedes a blackened shell. Two passersby were injured in the explosion. CCTV footage shows the blast and subsequent cloud of white smoke rising behind a row of trees lining the street. The bombing is being investigated as a terrorist attack.
Last July, prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed in a similar fashion by a car bomb, at a central Kyiv intersection. That killing remains unsolved. In March, former Russian lawmaker and Putin critic Denis Voronenkov, who fled Russia, was shot dead on a street in front of the Premier Palace Hotel, in central Kyiv.
UBJ Editor in Chief James Brooke contributed reporting from Kyiv. For comments and story ideas, please contact UBJ Lviv Correspondent Mark Satter at
Posted June 27, 2017