The cyberattack against Georgia in October 2019 was carried out by Russia, and more specifically by Military Unit 74455, the hacker division of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), said the US, UK, Georgia and a number of other European countries on Thursday.
“On October 28, 2019, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies (GtsST, also known as Unit 74455) carried out a widespread disruptive cyberattack against the country of Georgia. The incident, which directly affected the Georgian population, disrupted operations of several thousand Georgian government and privately-run websites and interrupted the broadcast of at least two major television stations. This action contradicts Russia’s attempts to claim it is a responsible actor in cyberspace and demonstrates a continuing pattern of reckless Russian GRU cyber operations against a number of countries. These operations aim to sow division, create insecurity, and undermine democratic institutions,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as cited by the Georgian news outlet Aspny.
A similar statement appeared on the website of the British embassy.
“These cyberattacks are part of Russia’s long-running campaign of hostile and destabilizing activity against Georgia. The UK is clear that the GRU conducted these cyberattacks in an attempt to undermine Georgia’s sovereignty, to sow discord and disrupt the lives of ordinary Georgian people. The UK remains unwavering in its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the British embassy said in a statement.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that the cyberattack in October affected websites belonging to the presidential administration, the justice system, municipal assemblies, state and commercial organizations and media, servers, and other systems.
“The servers and operating systems of these organizations were significantly damaged, severely affecting their functionality. The goal of this cyberattack was to undermine Georgia’s national security, to harm the Georgian population by disrupting and paralyzing the servers of the government and other organizations, to foment unrest. The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the Main Division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Georgia condemns this cyberattack, which goes against international norms and principles, once again infringing Georgia’s sovereignty in order to hinder the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration and democratic development,” said Georgian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vladimir Konstantidi.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili described the attack as a manifestation of hybrid war:
“With the 2019 cyberattack on our official website, Russia has attacked our sovereignty and national security by trying to paralyze the activities of state institutions, a blatant violation of international norms and a clear manifestation of the hybrid war against Georgia,” she tweeted on February 20.
In March 2018, a number of western countries simultaneously expelled Russian diplomats who had been involved in intelligence activities.