Cyberattack: Firm will face charges, says official

Computer. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Computer. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Ukraine — The small Ukrainian tax software company that is accused of being the patient zero of a damaging global cyberepidemic is under investigation and will face charges, the head of Ukraine's CyberPolice suggested on Monday.

Col. Serhiy Demydiuk, the head of Ukraine's national Cyberpolice unit, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Kiev-based M.E. Doc's employees had blown off repeated warnings about the security of their information technology infrastructure.

"They knew about it," he told the AP at his office. "They were told many times by various anti-virus firms. ... For this neglect, the people in this case will face criminal responsibility."

Demydiuk and other officials say last week's unusually disruptive cyberattack was mainly spread through a malicious update to M.E. Doc's eponymous tax software program, which is widely used by accountants and businesses across Ukraine.

READ: Massive cyber attack hits several companies

The malicious update, likely planted on M.E. Doc's update server by a hacker, was then disseminated across the country before exploding into an epidemic of data-scrambling software that Ukrainian and several other multinational firms are still recovering from.

M.E. Doc has given various explanations for its role in the outbreak. It initially acknowledged having been hacked, but then deleted the statement . It then called allegations it had seeded the outbreak "clearly erroneous" but later said it was cooperating with authorities. The company has not returned messages from AP seeking comment.

Meanwhile, several companies hit by last week's cyberattack say they are edging toward normalcy.

Law firm DLA Piper said late on Sunday that it has restored its email service and was working to bring its other networks back online. Danish shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Monday it was that "getting closer to full speed" and that all but one cargo terminal was back in action. Russian companies were reportedly affected as well; Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft said on Monday it had taken the company six days to fully repair its computer systems after they were badly hit in the cyberattack.

READ: Cyberattack reaches Asia as new targets hit by ransomware

Ukrainian authorities have blamed Russia for masterminding the outbreak, although several independent experts say it's too early, based on what's publicly known, to come to any firm conclusions. Ukraine has repeatedly come under fire from high-powered cyberattacks tied to Moscow.

The extent of the damage and disruption in Ukraine was still unclear on Monday. Authorities have yet to release an accounting of the number of victims or guess at the cost inflicted by the malware. Demydiuk said his service was still collating figures and declined to even provide estimates.

It's clear, though, that the economic disruption has not been negligible. Some bank employees have not been to work in days. At Kiev's Boryspil Airport, senior airport official Yevhenii Dykhne told the AP that about a third of computers, mainly those devoted to back-office work such as procurement, were still offline.

Hanna Rybalka, who works at the state-owned Oschadbank's headquarters in Kiev, said that business had taken nearly a week to recover.

"Today is the first day of full-time work," she said in a Facebook message on Monday.

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

ZAR/USD
17.11
(-0.81)
ZAR/GBP
21.49
(-1.31)
ZAR/EUR
19.31
(-0.58)
ZAR/AUD
11.90
(-0.54)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-0.64)
Gold
1795.87
(+0.62)
Silver
18.28
(+0.01)
Platinum
839.00
(+2.37)
Brent Crude
43.07
(+0.70)
Palladium
1922.00
(+0.26)
All Share
55243.80
(+0.72)
Top 40
50922.32
(+0.83)
Financial 15
10086.99
(-0.47)
Industrial 25
76855.87
(+0.55)
Resource 10
52017.34
(+1.71)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'm not really directly affected
18% - 1725 votes
I am taking a hit, but should be able to recover in the next year
23% - 2261 votes
My finances have been devastated
34% - 3374 votes
It's still too early to know what the full effect will be
25% - 2448 votes
Vote