Hackers Join In the Struggle for Crimea

March 7, 2014
...in protest of internet censorship in Russia

Since last Friday, free press has been under attack in Crimea. Earlier we shared video of reporters being attacked in Simferopol, a gun was put to their head and their equipment was stolen. Yesterday, a BBC journalist was detained — and sexually harassed — outside the surrounded Belbek airbase. Most concerning perhaps was when armed gunmen stormed a Crimean television station and representatives of the Russian government reportedly took over, replacing the independent news broadcasts with Russian state TV.

Now, Ukrainian television may be under cyber-attack:


But cyber attacks against the Ukrainian media or the interim government in Kiev are nothing new since Yanukovych fled the country. Gazeta.ru, an independent Russian media news outlet, reports, excerpted and translated by The Interpreter. — Ed.

hacker grenade

Especially clearly it manifested itself in the last days of the conflict around the Crimea.

As a source in the Ukrainian Interior Ministry told Gazeta.ru, over the last year, the police received 6.5 thousand reports of cybercrime, but this year promises to be even more “fruitful”.

“In the recent months, while the riots continued, we received significantly more reports, and the situation became even more tense,”  a source familiar with the situation told Gazeta.ru.

Among the Ukrainian media that came under attacks is the UNIAN news agency, that for the whole day on March 3 was fighting a most powerful DDoS-attack. At the moment the site is back to normal operation, but resource programmers do not let their guard down. “They are constantly on the alert,” Irina Golovatenco, the head of the UNIAN press center told Gazeta.Ru. “I do not have any details about the exact reasons for the attack or those who could be behind it. An internal investigation is still going on.”

Ukrainian web journals Glavnoe and Gordon also came under attack, as well as Russian Russia Today site, that survived a hack on March 2.

That cup has not passed some Ukrainian government agencies either. According to some reports, the sites of the Verkhovna Rada and the Ukrainian Security Service came under DDoS-attacks. The latter site froze after it had published an order to start an anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine, aimed at suppressing riots.

However, the Rada refused to confirm those reports. “The site operates as usual, and I know nothing about hacking attempts,” Victoria Shvedova, a spokeswoman for the Verkhovna Rada briefly told Gazeta.ru.

Whatever happened, it is not known where the attacks are launched from. It can only be determined by a thorough investigation.

“The nature of the attacks is such that the control centers are scattered around, and an attack could be launched from anywhere – from Russia, Ukraine, America or China,” Yevgeny Bespalov, General Director of the Friendly Runet told Gazeta.ru. “They are difficult to identify.”

However, some web communities voluntarily assume responsibility for hacks and attacks.

For example, regional offices of the Anonymous activist group claimed responsibility for their involvement. Back in February some of them called on Yanukovych to listen to the protesters’ demands, or risk DDoS-attacks on government agencies websites.

However, if it is to be assumed, that the main adversaries in this cyber-confrontation are Russian and Ukrainian hackers who have different opinions on what is going on in Ukraine and the Crimea, Ukraine’s position looks much more vulnerable. According to Cyber ​​Power Index statistics, Ukraine did not make it to the list of 19 countries, known for their hackers, giving way to India, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

By the way, Russia is the 14th in this ranking.

“In this regard Ukraine is in a precarious situation,” confirms Konstantin Korsun, the director of Ukrainian Information Security Group. “I have previously suggested to set up a coordination center that would monitor security of resources.”

However, as long as there is no organized defense against cyber attacks in Ukraine, individuals, such as Evgeni Dokukin, a so-called “white hacker” nicknamed MustLive, take over these responsibilities. Being a “white hacker” he is not engaged in hacking, but rather looks for websites vulnerabilities and reports them to the owners of the resources. Late last week Dokukin condemned the Russian intervention in Ukraine and urged like-minded people to take decisive action.

It cannot be ruled out that in connection with what is going on Rada deputies will soon revisit the draft law, developed last year by the Ukrainian security forces, that proposes to declare hacker attacks on websites of government agencies and promotion of cruelty on the Internet as threats to national security. The bill also gives more powers to the law enforcement to investigate such crimes. The bill was introduced last year, but hasn’t been adopted yet.