Two Polish government websites – The National Atomic Energy Agency and Health Ministry – were hacked Wednesday.
The attackers briefly compromised websites and used them to spread false information. The attackers spread fake news about a radioactive threat. Because there was a similar precedent, the Polish government said the breach had the hallmarks of a Russian cyberattack.
Besides governmental websites, someone hacked a Twitter account of a journalist who often writes about Russian and eastern European affairs. Attackers used this Twitter account to further spread false information.
The National Atomic Energy Agency and Health Ministry websites briefly carried announcements of a supposed nuclear waste leak coming from neighboring Lithuania and threatening citizens in Poland. The false statement claimed that the health and lives of Polish people were in danger since they are living close to the Lithuanian border. But the false alarm apparently failed to receive much notice.
Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for the head of the Polish security services, told The Associated Press that the whole story looked like a typical Russian attack in which they attempted to spread suspicion and division among Western states.
“The whole story looked like a typical Russian attempt,” Zaryn said.
A similar hacking attempt took place in 2020 during which alleged Russian hackers, in a similar vein, spread false information about a non-existent radioactive cloud heading to Poland from Chernobyl in Ukraine where the largest in history nuclear disaster happened in the 1980s.
Such false claims as those made on Wednesday can potentially distress a vast number of people in Europe due to previous cases of radioactive contamination. An incident involving a higher-than-normal level of radiation happened in 2020. At the time, a strange cloud of radiation was making its way across Scandinavia over the Baltic sea. Radiation sensors in Stockholm have detected high but still harmless levels of radionuclides. Nordic country officials said the increased radioactivity may point to a damaged “fuel element” at a nuclear power plant in Western Russia.