KIEV, March 16 (RIA Novosti) – Hackers have attacked the official website of the secession referendum in Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea just hours before polls opened, local officials said Sunday.
“Today at 1 a.m. our website was hit by a massive wave of modern denial of service attacks,” officials said in a statement.
According to the statement posted on the website referendum2014.ru, experts were able to calculate the source of the attacks as originating from the US-based University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Such attacks often originate from so-called botnets, networks of compromised computers owned by unsuspecting users that usually have no knowledge their computers are being used for illicit purposes.
Botnets can be controlled remotely by hackers to swamp a web server with rapid fire requests of its web pages, a digital assault known as a distributed denial of service attack.
On Friday, denial of service attacks temporarily interrupted services on several Russian government websites, including those of the Kremlin and Central Bank of Russia.
Hacker attacks have been at the center of previous rows between former Soviet republics and Russia. Government and private websites in Estonia were brought down by hackers during a 2007 dispute over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial in the Baltic country’s capital, Tallinn.