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Hacktivists reportedly caused extended periods of downtime on several NATO websites over the weekend, and the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are said to be linked to escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the now occupied region of Crimea.

The attacks began on Saturday evening, and continued through Sunday, though most services had recovered, and officials say the event did not at any time put critical systems, data or operational functions at risk.

“It doesn’t impede our ability to command and control our forces. At no time was there any risk to our classified networks,” a NATO official said.

The attacks were likely prompted by published statements on NATO’s main public website ( from Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen which insinuated that Sunday’s referendum on Crimea’s attempt to break away from Ukraine would violate international law.

A website belonging to NATO-affiliated cyber security center in Estonia and NATO’s unclassified e-mail networks also experienced disruptions from DDoS attacks launched by a hacktivist group identified as Cyber Berkut said to be protesting NATO’s interference in their country’s internal affairs, but experts believe the attacks were likely initiated by pro-Russian sympathizers.

“One could equate these cyber attacks against NATO as kicking sand into one’s face,” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit research institute.

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