Ukrainian hackers of a group called Cyber Berkut have taken credit for the downtime suffered by three websites belonging to NATO.
The websites targeted with distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks are the ones of NATO (nato.int), the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (nato-pa.int) and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence (ccdcoe.org)
According to the hackers, the attack started sometime on Saturday. NATO representatives admitted that several of the organization’s websites were the target of a “significant DDOS attack.”
They noted that the integrity of NATO data and systems had not been affected by the attack. However, Reuters reported that the unclassified email system had also been impacted.
The attack carried on for around 24 hours. However, at the time of writing, all of the targeted websites appear to be back online and working properly.
In a statement posted on cyber-berkut.org in Russian, the hackers claimed to have launched the attack because they didn’t want NATO to interfere in Ukraine.
After stopping the attack, the hacktivists noted that if NATO couldn’t protect its own systems, it probably couldn’t secure the personal data of European citizens.
The DDOS attack was launched shortly after NATO’s secretary general published a statement regarding the referendum in Crimea. In the referendum, which took place on Sunday, most citizens of Crimea expressed their desire to join Russia.
Digital DAO’s Jeffrey Carr has analyzed the attack against the NATO websites.
“[Cyber Berkut] are staunch supporters of the former President Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Russia last month and they hate Yulia Tymoshenko who was freed from prison on Feb 22. Cyber Berkut has also called for the release of 70 Pro-Russian activists and Governor Pavel Gubarev in the city of Donetsk,” Carr noted in a blog post.
“Cyber Berkut's website has claimed responsibility for launching attacks which interfered with mobile phone service for "neo-fascist groups" which support the revolution, and they've hacked about 100 or more Ukrainian websites since they began on March 3, 2014.”
Berkut, which in Ukrainian means “golden eagle,” is the name of the special police force tasked with handling the anti-government protests that took place recently in Ukraine.
Cyber Berkut appears to be somehow connected to Anonymous Ukraine, another hacktivist group that supports Ukraine’s independence from NATO and the West in general.
In November 2013, Anonymous Ukraine also launched DDOS attacks against the website of NATO’s CCDCOE. Later, the hackers leaked data allegedly stolen from the computer systems of the opposition.