Cyberattack hits Montenegro government, defense minister points finger at Russia – EURACTIV.com
A major cyberattack has targeted government institutions in Montenegro, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic has announced, with Russia the main suspect.
The computer systems of several state bodies, including the Ministry of Finance, were “infected”, he said on Friday evening (August 26), and the NATO-member Balkan nation asked its allies to help limit the damage.
Abazovic did not comment on the origins of Friday’s attack, but his defense minister pointed the finger at Russia.
Moscow added Montenegro to its list of “enemy countries” in March after the country of 620,000 people backed European Union sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Defense Minister Rasko Konjevic described “very sophisticated attacks that could not be carried out by individuals”.
“Who could have any political interest in inflicting such damage on Montenegro? I think there is enough (evidence) to suspect that Russia is behind the attack,” Konjevic told state television.
Media, citing an informal National Security Agency press briefing, said on Saturday that the attack was led by “several Russian services”.
They reported that “all critical infrastructure” was at risk, including electricity and water supply systems, while power stations were switched to manual operation.
This was the second wave of cyberattacks against institutions in Montenegro – a first following a no-confidence vote that toppled Montenegro’s government on August 19.
The Prime Minister convened the National Security Council on Friday evening to decide on the measures to be taken.
“We were unable to have the council confirmed by people knowledgeable in this area whether an individual, group or state was behind (the attack), but we also could not rule that out,” Abazovic said during of a press conference.
“Montenegro will send a request for expert assistance to international partners to possibly recover data from this attack and prevent future attacks,” the prime minister said.
Public Administration Minister Marash Dukaj tweeted on Saturday: “Thanks to swift action, there was no lasting damage to the IT infrastructure.”
He previously said that “citizens’ and businesses’ accounts, as well as their data, are not at risk.”
The U.S. Embassy has issued a warning to its citizens in Montenegro, saying “persistent” cyberattacks could cause “disruption to utilities, transportation (including border crossings and the airport) and telecommunications”.
Montenegro is in a political crisis after parliament passed a no-confidence motion on August 20 against Abazovic’s cabinet, protesting the signing of a long-contested agreement regulating ties with the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church.
Abazovic signed the deal with the church this month despite criticism from rights groups and pro-Western political parties who said it gave the church too much power over other religious communities.
President Milo Djukanovic is to appoint a new prime minister-designate to form a new government in the NATO member country aspiring to join the European Union. There is also the possibility of an early election.
Politics in the Adriatic country of just 625,000 people has long been marked by divisions between those who identify as Montenegrins and pro-Russian Serbs who opposed Montenegro’s independence from a former state union. with Serbia.
(With additional reporting by Georgi Gotev)