Russia behind massive cyber attack on Georgia, say Western allies

A large cyberattack against the Georgian government, media and non-governmental organisations last October was carried out by Russia, Western allies said on Thursday.

Countries including the UK, US and multiple EU member states including the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Norway and Estonia blamed the Russian intelligence service (GRU) for the large-scale October 28, 2019 attack.

A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry denied any involvement to the RIA news agency.

The attack disrupted the operations of thousands of websites in Georgia including some owned by the government and non-governmental organisations and momentarily interrupted the broadcast of at least two major television channels.

The UK’s Foreign Office said it had been part of “Russia’s long-running campaign of hostile and destabilising activity against Georgia”.

“The UK is clear that the GRU conducted these cyber-attacks in an attempt to undermine Georgia’s sovereignty, to sow discord and disrupt the lives of ordinary Georgian people,” it added.

In its own statement, the US Department of State said the cyberattack “demonstrates a continuing pattern of reckless Russian GRU cyber operations against a number of countries”.

“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behaviour in Georgia and elsewhere. The stability of cyberspace depends on the responsible behaviour of nations,” it also wrote.

Georgia “deeply appreciate the vocal support from our partners and allies around the world,” Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia wrote on Twitter.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre explained that the programme used for the attack — known in open source variously as Sandworm team, BlackEnergy Group, Telebots and VoodooBear — is operated by the GRU’s Main Centre of Special Technologies.

It said the unit was responsible for the December 2015 and December 2016 attacks against Ukraine’s electricity grid. It also blamed it for the NotPetya attack which impacted Ukrainian, Russia, and Western businesses and the BadRabbit one against the Kiyv metro and Odessa airport, both in 2017.

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