New intelligence from the UK and US has claimed that a Russian cyber-attack targeted satellite communications company Viasat in Ukraine.
The attack was reportedly conducted on February 24th, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the start of operations in Ukraine. It had repercussions across Ukraine and Europe, causing outages for several thousand Ukrainian customers and impacted windfarms and internet users in central Europe.
The cyber-attack against California-based company Viasat, which provides satellite broadband services, began approximately one hour before Russia launched its major invasion of Ukraine.
Although the primary target is believed to have been the Ukrainian military, other customers were affected, including personal and commercial internet users in Ukraine, and wind farms and internet users in central Europe.
According to Viasat, the Russian cyber-attack meant that “tens of thousands of terminals have been damaged, made inoperable and cannot be repaired”. However, it said that its core network infrastructure and satellites were unaffected by the attack.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that it is almost certain Russia was responsible for the Viasat cyber-attack. It also claimed that Russian Military Intelligence was almost certainly involved in the January 13th defacements of Ukrainian government websites and the deployment of Whispergate destructive malware.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is clear and shocking evidence of a deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine which had significant consequences on ordinary people and businesses in Ukraine and across Europe.
“We will continue to call out Russia’s malign behaviour and unprovoked aggression across land, sea and cyberspace, and ensure it faces severe consequences.”
Since the war began, Ukraine and Russia have become a hot bed of cyber-attacks as both sides take action against each other. Research in March found that 89% of all cyber-attacks worldwide affected one of the two countries.
This led to concerns that the attacks would spill out beyond the two nations, affecting third-party countries.
In the months before Russian troops entered Ukraine, there were concerns that the invasion would be preceded by a major cyber-attack against Ukraine and the wider West. This would aim to knock out critical infrastructure, hampering communications and making Ukrainian logistics more difficult.
Both the NCSC and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) warned organisations to reinforce their cyber-defences as a war looked more likely.
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