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Ukraine Probes Kiev Power Grid Cyber Attack

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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From Russia with love? Ukraine investigates weekend cyber attack on Kiev’s power grid

Ukraine has begun an investigation after a suspected cyber attack at the weekend left the northern part of Kiev without power.

This is not the first time that the country has been targeted by hackers after a highly controversial referendum in which Crimea voted to leave Ukraine and become part of Russia.

Earlier this year a consultant who works for government investigators warned that more cyber attacks were likely to happen because of poor security practices within that country’s energy companies.

Ukraine - Shutterstock - © Mykhaylo PalinchakPower Attacks

Cyber attacks have also previously targeted the Ukraine national power grid. In December 2015 an attack left parts of western Ukraine, including regional capital Ivano-Frankivsk, without power for almost six hours.

Now Ukraine has told Reuters it is investigating a suspected cyber attack on Kiev’s power grid at the weekend

The head of the state-run power distributor Vsevolod Kovalchuk said on Tuesday that a power distribution station near Kiev unexpectedly switched off early on Sunday, leaving the northern part of the capital without electricity.

Kovalchuk is the acting chief director of Ukrenergo, and he said that the outage amounted to 200 megawatts of capacity, equivalent to about a fifth of the capital’s energy consumption at night.

“That is a lot. This kind of blackout is very, very rare,” Kovalchuk told Reuters. He said there were only two possible explanations for the accident: either a hardware failure or external interference.

The company’s IT specialists had found transmission data that had not been included in standard protocols, suggesting that external interference was the likeliest scenario.

Kovalchuk reportedly said Ukraine’s state security service had joined the investigation. “There are no final conclusions yet about what it was, but experts say that this was something new and they have not encountered this before,” Kovalchuk said.

Russian Aggression

Whilst the investigation continues, no identity of the attacker has been revealed, however all fingers point to Russia because of previous attacks.

As far back as 2014, experts warned that Ukraine would not be able to withstand a coordinated Russian attack on its infrastructure.

Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) told Silicon UK at the time that it had been fending off attacks, but could not be more specific.

Russia, which has invested heavily in its cyber defence division, has previously been suspected of carrying out denial of service (DoS) attacks on the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine.

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