The Ministry of foreign Affairs of great Britain, the USA and Georgia have accused a reconnaissance unit of the Russian armed forces, known as the GRU, in a large-scale cyber attack on Georgian websites, including the administration of the President, the government, courts and TV channels, BBC reports.
Moscow through the Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs Andrey Rudenko denies any wrongdoing. “Russia was not going and not going in any way to interfere in the internal Affairs of Georgia in one form or another,” said Rudenko Agency RIA Novosti.
The wave of hacker attacks on Georgian public institutions and the media took place on 28 October 2019. Broadcasting several TV channels was interrupted, the government servers were blocked, was paralyzed the work of several public institutions.
In many cases the main pages of the web sites had been replaced by a photo of former President Mikheil Saakashvili signed in English I’ll be back (“I’ll be back”).
“The cyber attack was directed against the national security of Georgia”, — reads the statement of the Georgian foreign Ministry. Tbilisi believes that Russian hackers on the orders of the Russian command was deliberately trying to cripple the operations of many agencies to cause panic among the people and thus hurt the Georgian citizens.
Washington and London made their statements together with the Georgian foreign Ministry and also laid on Moscow responsibility for the attack.
Previous cyber attacks, which accused the GRU
December 2015. Was attacked by the Ukrainian grid. About 230 thousand people remained without electricity for one to six hours.
December 2016. A computer virus designed specifically to damage power systems, led to power outages in Kiev. About an hour about a fifth of the city remained without electricity.
June 2017. A powerful cyber attack was directed at state institutions of Ukraine, as well as financial and energy organizations in the country. Suffered several European and Russian companies.
October 2017. In an attack using a ransomware (virus affecting the control of the computer) encrypted hard drives on the servers of the Kiev metro, Odessa airport, Central Bank of Russia and two Russian media.
Source: UK foreign
U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo directly accused of cyber attack on Georgia, the main Directorate of the Russian General staff, and specifically military part number 74455, also known as Sandstorm (“sandstorm”).
This unit, located to the North of Moscow assigned three of 12 Russian officers, which the United States in absentia brought accusations of hacking attacks ahead of the presidential elections in 2016.
The British foreign office also condemned the actions of the Russian military intelligence against Georgia. “Britain, Georgia and foreign partners revealed that the GRU — Russian military intelligence — is responsible for a number of significant cyber attacks against Georgia last year”, — reads the statement of the British foreign Ministry. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Britain Dominic Raab called the actions of the hackers GRU arrogant and reckless.
Analysis: Gordon Korera, correspondent Bi-bi-si on security issues
These statements continue the policy of great Britain to put pressure on Russian intelligence after two years ago in Salisbury poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. The purpose of this policy is to try to prevent further Russian action by their conviction.
A remarkable aspect of the current allegations of Russian involvement is what we are talking about relatively recent events that took place in October 2019. Among the victims was Georgian TV channels.
GRU attacks a television company at least 2015, when the air was removed by the French channel TV5Monde. This has raised fears that similar actions are possible in relation to broadcasters in other countries.
These steps are considered as part of the tactics of hybrid war which Russia applies. It is still described as actions in the “grey zone” designed to destabilize the situation in various States.
But there are no clear signs that GRU is really to be contained, and this is a problem for the UK.
Very indicative in this sense will be the U.S. presidential election of 2020. Will Russian intelligence to intervene in them — as, allegedly, she was trying to make in 2016?
British national cybersecurity center notes that the security services failed with a probability of 95% to determine what the GRU was behind the cyber attacks on Georgia in October 2019.
The administration of the President of Georgia stated that on October 28, 2019 Russia directly attacked the “sovereignty and national security of the country, trying to paralyze the state institutions.” “This attack is a gross violation by Russia of international norms and a clear manifestation of hybrid war against Georgia”, — said in a statement.
Nina Akhmeteli, correspondent Bi-bi-si, Tbilisi:
During the attack, 2019 for approximately two thousand Georgian sites visitors is original content saw a picture of a smiling ex-President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili. The same picture appeared on the web page of the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili.
Organizations that were victims of cyber attacks, talked about a pretty serious injury. The representatives of hosting companies — the unprecedented scale of the attacks.
Experts called it particularly troubling that the object of the attack were government agencies. And even then it sounded the assumption that these events are Russian special services.
The Georgian interior Ministry has started an investigation under articles of the unauthorized penetration into computer systems and attempt to obtain computer data.
To law enforcement, many were skeptical: “According to investigators, the attack was carried out either from Georgia or abroad. That is, they have narrowed geographical area” — ironically commented then the statement of the interior Ministry opposition MP Otar Kakhidze.
Georgia is not the first time becomes a target of hackers. One of the most ambitious cyberattacks were carried out in Georgia in 2008. Then it became the web page of government agencies and the media.