Russian Hackers Accused of Cyberattacks on Kosovo Government Websites

Kosovo officials claimed that the governmental websites had come under attack from Russian hackers because of the country’s support for Ukraine’s self-defence.

A Kosovo government spokesperson told BIRN that Russian hackers targeted official websites on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We were informed by the relevant institutions that some government websites have been the target of DDoS attacks. For a short time the websites were not functioning,” the spokesperson said.

“The attack was carried out by Russian hackers in retaliation for our support of Ukraine with military equipment,” he added*.

He said that the government’s Information Society Agency got the websites working again without “consequences in the data”.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti told a press conference on Wednesday that Russian hackers’ aim was “a hybrid war which, if successful, would result in the destabilisation of Kosovo’s security, stability and welfare institutions”.

Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz first announced on X on Tuesday afternoon that “Russia is attacking Kosovo in a hybrid attack today, following our announcement of support in military equipment for Ukraine in its justified defence against Russian genocidal aggression”.

Kosovo media also reported on Tuesday that the websites of presidency and the prime minister’s office had come under attack.

Kosovo public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo, RTK, quoted Defence Minister Ejup Maqedonci as claiming on Wednesday that “this group of Russian hackers launched a cyberattack against Kosovo in retaliation for my statement in support of Ukraine” at the Defence 24 conference in Poland.

“While Russian aggression in Ukraine is underway, Russia’s appendage in the Balkans, Serbia, the same state that caused the 1999 war in Kosovo, continues to have an aggressive approach towards Kosovo,” Maqedonci said at the conference.

Maqedonci also announced on Wednesday on Facebook he and Lithuanian deputy defence minister Zilvinas Tomkus had discussed new forms of cooperation between the two countries, and also the continuation of cooperation within the framework of the Ukraine Defence [Contact] Group as part of the demining coalition”.

BIRN contacted Kosovo’s Cyber Defence Unit, which is part of the Kosovo Security Forces, seeking further details about the cyberattacks, but was referred to the Ministry of Defence’s public relations office. The ministry also did not provide any details to BIRN.

RTK published a screenshot that the broadcaster’s reporter said was sent to him by government officials. The screenshot is purportedly of an official site that was altered by the hackers to show the message: “Kosovo is ready to join collective efforts to support the defence of Ukraine. They should think more about this…”

In June 2023, BIRN reported that over the past three years, Kosovo has faced a significant number of cyberattacks targeting various sectors. Most common have been attempted financial scams.