Lithuania warns banks of cyber attacks, power cuts amid fears of war in Ukraine

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Feb 16 (Reuters) – Lithuania’s central bank has told the country’s banks to prepare for power cuts and cyberattacks as Russia’s standoff with Ukraine risks spilling over into a military conflict, according to a document and two sources familiar with the matter.

Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears of an invasion.

Losing electricity and internet access are among “extreme but possible” scenarios that Lithuania’s central bank told finance companies to be ready for in a letter sent to them last week and seen by Reuters.

Lithuania, as well as Baltic neighbours Latvia and Estonia, shares a common power grid with Russia run from Moscow.

“Increased geopolitical tension in the region leads to increased threats of cyber-attacks, including attacks on critical information infrastructure,” the central bank warned in the letter.

The letter did not name any possible hackers. The Lithuanian central bank did not respond to a request for comment.

The warning comes as EU regulators more generally have told banks to prepare for potential Russian cyberattacks, and some financial firms conduct cyber war games to test their ability to withstand them. 

Lithuanian banks should have contingency plans in place for cyber assaults such as ransomware and DDoS attacks, in which hackers try to flood a network with high volumes of data traffic, the central bank said in the letter.

It told financial firms to prepare for a breach similar to last year’s massive SolarWinds cyberattack that was linked to a Russian-based agency and targeted hundreds of companies and organisations. 


Russia has said some of its forces surrounding Ukraine are withdrawing, but NATO has urged Moscow to show proof, saying it has seen signs there are more troops on the way. 

Two Ukrainian banks, including its largest, were hit by a cyberattack on Tuesday, Ukraine’s information security centre said in a statement that suggested it was pointing the finger at Russia. 

Once ruled from Moscow, but now members of both NATO and the European Union, the Baltic states have tense relations with their former overlord.

Estonia blamed Russia for a cyberattack in 2007 that paralysed its internet network. The incident prompted NATO to review its readiness to defend against “cyber-warfare.”

Janis Sarts, director of a NATO-affiliated think-tank in Riga, said Russia could use cyberattacks and disruptions to energy supplies in the Baltics and across the West “to try to split the Western alliance and to try to create internal pressures for western governments.”

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in RigaEditing by Mark Potter)

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