Cyberattacks Against Ukraine's Military Issued by China Ahead of Russia’s Special Op, Agency Claims
In the months prior to the launch of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, there were multiple reports of massive cyberattacks conducted against the Ukrainian government and bank services. Despite Ukrainian accusations of Russia carrying out the attacks, no group or state has claimed responsibility for the incidents.
The Ukrainian Security Service, or SBU, has accused China of launching a huge cyberattack on Ukraine's military and nuclear installations in the run-up to the current crisis, the UK's The Times reported,
citing obtained intelligence files.
According to the report, the Chinese government attempted to breach
more than 600 websites belonging to Ukraine's government and other vital institutions. The attacks began before the end of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, the security service's memo allegedly concluded, and accelerated the day before Moscow launched its special military operation on February 24 after recognizing the Donbass breakaway republics as sovereign states.
Furthermore, the internal documents reportedly alleged that China attempted to penetrate multiple institutions, including not only Ukraine's defense forces, but the national bank, and the railway administration.
According to the report, the attacks were designed to steal data and find ways to damage or shut down the country's defense and essential infrastructure.
The SBU reportedly said in those memos, also cited by The Guardian,
that it had also discovered hacking that looked like they came from the People's Liberation Army's cyberwarfare unit. Computer network exploitation (CNE) attacks, which are used for reconnaissance and espionage, have increased, according to the report.
The Ukrainian intelligence reportedly delivered a series of memos detailing the scope of the hacking and including nuclear targets, which were supposed to have been prepared by another country.
China has stated that it supports a peaceful solution to the conflict, and that it is not going to be embroiled in a confrontation. However, some experts, cited by The Hill,
expressed an opinion that China might have assisted those incidents behind the scenes.
Still, other experts pointed out that cooperation between the two countries is highly unlikely.
"Generally, when we talk about China in cyberspace, we’re talking about cyber espionage more than cyberattacks," Josephine Wolff, an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Tufts University Fletcher School, is quoted in the report as saying.
Moreover, according to the publication, rather than disrupting and harming vital infrastructure networks and operations, Chinese actors allegedly prefer to use cyber espionage to gather intelligence and steal intellectual property and trade secrets.
Experts reportedly said that they had not seen any solid evidence that China is assisting Russia in launching cyberattacks against Ukraine.
"I find it unlikely that the Russians would enlist China’s help with that," Michael Daniel, president and CEO at Cyber Threat Alliance, said. "Russia has so much [cyber] capability on its own … it’s difficult for me to imagine that kind of collaboration."