Russian military behind hack of satellite communication devices in Ukraine at war’s outset, U.S. officials say



According to US sources familiar with the incident, US intelligence experts have concluded that Russian military espionage hackers were behind an assault on a satellite internet service that crippled Ukraine’s military communications at the outset of the war last month.

The US government, on the other hand, has not made its decision public.

“At this moment, we do not have an attribution to provide and are closely monitoring this,” said Saloni Sharma, a National Security Council spokesman. “As we’ve already stated, we’re worried about the apparent use of cyber operations to disrupt communications networks in Ukraine and across Europe, affecting companies and individual Internet access.”

President Biden issued a warning to American businesses on Monday, saying they must be vigilant in light of “changing intelligence” that the Russians are “exploring alternatives” for cyberattacks. Several federal government authorities have emphasised the need of corporations implementing defensive security measures to defend themselves against such assaults.

Officials claimed the hack was orchestrated by the Russian military espionage service, the GRU, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the case.

The GRU has a track record of conducting harmful cyber operations against Ukraine, which borders Russia and is considered part of President Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence. In 2014, the GRU attacked Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, and in 2015 and 2016, it hacked the nation’s electricity infrastructure, cutting off power in parts of the country in both cases.

Viasat’s European satellite network, KA-SAT, provided the modems. Customers are sold Internet service via modems by the corporation through distributors across Europe. According to the source, the business is sending replacement modems to wholesalers so that they can get them to impacted clients.

When asked if Ukraine knew who was behind the attack this week, Victor Zhora, deputy head of Ukraine’s main cybersecurity agency, the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, said: “We don’t need to attribute it because we have obvious evidence that it was organised by Russian hackers to disrupt the connection between customers who use this satellite system.”

“Of course, they were targeting the potential of [the] Ukrainian armed forces first,” he said, “since this occurred right before the invasion.”

Zhora described the sabotage as “a pretty major loss in communications in the very beginning of the fight” earlier this month.

Satellite communications “have been used extensively by Ukrainian military not just for command and control of forces but also for tactical missions such as use of drones against Russian armour,” according to Dmitri Alperovitch, a cyber expert and chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank.

“We can’t know for sure,” Alperovitch said, “but this KA-SAT strike may have had a significant influence on reducing Ukrainian military capabilities at the start of the war.”


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