Russian hackers attack Lithuania over Kaliningrad sanctions

EuroActiv Politico News

Russian hacking group Killnet took responsibility Monday for a days-long distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) on Lithuanian’s public services, asserting the hit was a direct response to the blockade of goods imposed by Vilnius to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

In a video message circulating online, the pro-Russian hacktivist group demanded that Lithuania allow the transit of goods to Kaliningrad otherwise attacks would continue. POLITICO has been unable to independently authenticate the video.

Attacks started hitting Lithuanian services last week, Lithuania’s cybersecurity services said. The attacks continued at the time of writing.

Lithuania’s Vice Minister of National Defense Margiris Abukevičius said the attacks were closely linked with Russia’s strategic objectives in the diplomatic tussle with European governments over its invasion of Ukraine.

EU countries imposed a fourth package of sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine that hit transport lines to and from Kaliningrad, Russian territory sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. The disrupted transport lines have flared up tensions between the EU and Russia, POLITICO reported last week.

“At this stage, it is important to verify who is behind” the attacks, Abukevičius said, adding that the European Union can step in to formulate a diplomatic response after that. “I hope we will be able to share more details with our partners in the EU and NATO,” he added.

Lithuanian services are bracing for fiercer attacks in the coming days.

“It is highly probable that such or even more intense attacks will continue into the coming days, especially against the communications, energy and financial sectors,” Jonas Skardinskas, the acting director of Lithuania’s National Cyber Security Centre, said in a statement.

The agency also recommended that all personnel in charge of cybersecurity at governmental institutions as well as private companies take extra security precautions, including verifying third-party access to infrastructure.

The Killnet hacking group in its messages threatened to deploy ransomware as well as DDoS attacks against Lithuania but so far no serious ransomware attacks were identified by security services, Abukevičius said.

The attack had “limited success” so far, the vice minister added, mentioning how the hacking group managed to take down web pages but the government was able to bring back services after a short time.

This article has been updated.