FBI to help investigate suspected Russian cyberattacks on Montenegro

The cyberattacks, described by officials as unprecedented and believed to have been launched by Russian hackers, hit Montenegro government IT services last week.

 A Russian flag is seen on the laptop screen in front of a computer screen on which cyber code is displayed, in this illustration picture taken March 2, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)
A Russian flag is seen on the laptop screen in front of a computer screen on which cyber code is displayed, in this illustration picture taken March 2, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KACPER PEMPEL/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)

The US Federal Bureau for Investigation (FBI) will send Cyber Action Teams (CAT) to Montenegro to help it investigate recent cyberattacks on government digital infrastructure, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The cyberattacks, described by officials as unprecedented and believed by the National Security Agency (ANB) to have been launched by Russian hackers, hit Montenegro government IT services last week.

Public Administration Minister Maras Dukaj has said that 150 workstations in 10 state institutions had been infected. The government had not received any request for ransom over compromised material.

NATO, France offer assistance to Montenegro authorities

NATO-member Montenegro's top police officials met on Wednesday with the FBI's legal attache for Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro and agreed that CAT experts should help in the investigation, the interior ministry said in a statement.

France and NATO have already pledged assistance, according to media reports.

 Montenegrian flag wave behind the monument of late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito after unveiling ceremony in Podgorica, Montenegro, December 19, 2018 (credit: STEVO VASILJEVIC/REUTERS) Montenegrian flag wave behind the monument of late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito after unveiling ceremony in Podgorica, Montenegro, December 19, 2018 (credit: STEVO VASILJEVIC/REUTERS)

Government officials have confirmed that ANB suspected that Russia was behind the attacks, saying they could be retaliation after Montenegro joined European Union sanctions against Russia and expelled several Russian diplomats.

Hackers also attacked Montenegro's state digital infrastructure on election day in 2016, and then again over a span of several months in 2017 when the former Yugoslav republic was about to join NATO.