Several public Nato websites have been taken down in cyber attacks being linked to an escalation in tensions over Crimea.A group calling itself “cyber berkut” said the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they saw as Nato interference in their country.
The claim, made at www.cyber-berkut.org, has not been independently verified. Cyber berkut is a reference to the feared and since disbanded riot squads used by the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s government.
The main Nato website www.nato.int and that of a cyber security centre in Estonia linked to the alliance were affected. Nato said none of its essential systems were compromised.
Occupied by Russian forces for more than a week, the largely Russian-speaking Crimea is holding a referendum today on seceding from Ukraine to join Russia.
Nato member states have condemned the vote, calling it unconstitutional and effectively an annexation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
Spokeswoman for the alliance Oana Lungescu said the websites had been taken down by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
“Our experts working to restore normal function,” she said via the social networking site Twitter.
“No operational impact … The attack hasn’t affected the integrity of Nato’s systems.”
She made no comment on where the attack might have originated.
John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the US Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute, said initial evidence strongly suggested that these cyber attacks were launched by pro-Russian sympathisers.
“One could equate these cyber attacks against Nato as kicking sand into one’s face,” he said.
Tensions between Moscow and the West have been rising steadily since Russia intervened following the overthrow of Mr Yanukovich.
Ukrainian and Russian websites have both been targets for cyber attacks in recent weeks but this appears to be the first major attack on a Western website since the crisis began.