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The night before, a shadowy pro-Moscow hacking collective called CyberBerkut attacked the premises. Its stated goal: to cripple the online system for distributing results and voter turnout throughout election day.SOFTWARE was destroyed. Hard drives were fried. Router settings were undone. Even the main backup was ruined.
The carnage stunnedCOMPUTER specialists the next morning. “It was like taking a cold shower,” said Victor Zhora, director of the Ukrainian IT firm Infosafe, which helped set up the network for the elections. “It really was the first strike in the cyber war.”
In just 72 hours, Ukraine would head to the polls in an election crucial to cementing the legitimacy of a new pro-Western government, desperate for a mandate as war exploded in the country’s east. If the commission didn’t offer its usual real-time online results, doubts about the vote’s legitimacy would further fracture an already divided nation.
The attack ultimately failed to derail the vote. Ukrainian computer specialists mobilised toRESTORE operations in time for the elections. But the intrusion heralded a new era in Ukraine that showed how geopolitical confrontation with Russia could give rise to a nebulous new cabal of cyber foes, bent on undermining and embarrassing authorities trying to break with the Kremlin.
In the past two years, cyber attacks have hit Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Defence Ministry and the presidential administration. Military communications lines andSECURE databases were compromised, said presidential and security officials. A steady flow of hacked government documents have appeared on the CyberBerkut website.
Ukraine offers a glimpse into the type of hybrid warfare that Western military officials are urgently preparing for: battles in which traditional land forces dovetail with cyber attackers toDEGRADE and defeat an enemy.
Officials in Kiev are united in their accusations about who is orchestrating or commissioning the hundreds of cyber attacks they have tallied: Russia. They cite Russia’s military doctrine that describes cyber weaponry as a key pillar of the country’s armed forces and the adoption of “enhanced and non-military measures” to achieve military goals.