Mar 11 (Reuters) Western intelligence agencies are investigating a cyberattack by unidentified hackers that crippled satellite broadband internet connectivity in Ukraine at the same time as Russia invaded, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.
Analysts from France’s ANSSI cybersecurity agency, Ukraine’s intelligence agency and the US National Security Agency are investigating whether the remote sabotage of a satellite internet provider’s service was carried out by hackers, backed by the Russian state, who were attempting to intercept communications in preparation for an attack to the battlefield.
On February 24, between 5:00 and 9:00 a.m., the digital attack on the satellite service began when Russian forces invaded Ukraine and began firing rockets, hitting major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv.
According to a representative of the American telecommunications company Viasat, which controls the affected network, the satellite modems of tens of thousands of users in Europe were disconnected as a result of the incident.
Mayor: Night strikes in Kyiv cause power and heating failures.
Officials say Russian drones are attacking key infrastructure in and around Kyiv, targeting them for attacks.
Ukraine is bombing Makiivka and attacking military barracks, officials say, and the Telegraph says Britain’s Sunak will indefinitely suspend childcare reform.
Some customers across Europe, including Ukraine, have an internet connection from Viasat Inc.’s KA-SAT satellite, which has been blocked by hackers. Some are still offline more than two weeks later, retailers told Reuters.
Due to Viasat’s role as an arms supplier to the United States and its allies, what appears to date to be one of the worst officially documented cyberattacks of the war has drawn the attention of Western intelligence agencies.
According to government contracts verified by Reuters, KA-SAT has provided Internet connectivity to Ukraine’s military and police forces.
According to Pablo Breuer, a former SOCOM technician for the United States, the disruption of internet connectivity via satellites could make it harder for Ukraine to defend against Russian forces.
“The range of conventional terrestrial radios is limited. You have to rely on these satellites when using modern intelligent systems and smart weapons and trying to perform combined arms movements,” Breuer noted.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to inquiries. Moscow has consistently denied allegations of involvement in cyber attacks.
In what the Kremlin calls “denazification,” the Russian army has surrounded Ukrainian cities. The West condemned this as an unprovoked attack and subsequently imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow. See more
Viasat said in a statement that a “premeditated, isolated and external cyber event” was responsible for the outages of customers in Ukraine and elsewhere, but the company has yet to provide a full and honest justification.
In an email, company representative Chris Phillips said, “The network has stabilized and we are restoring service and activating the terminals as soon as possible.” He added that the company is prioritizing “essential infrastructure and humanitarian assistance.”
Czech telecommunications company INTV CEO Jaroslav Strategy said the affected modems appeared to be completely non-functional. He said that normally the four status lights on SurfBeam 2 modems would indicate whether they were online or not. The lights on equipment manufactured by Viasat did not turn on at all after the attack.
The Viasat representative said a flaw in the satellite network’s “management zone” gave hackers remote access to modems, forcing them to go offline. He said some of the affected devices would need to be replaced and most would need to be reprogrammed on site or at a machine shop.
The Viasat representative refused any information and was evasive when asked what the “administrative part” of the network meant. A Eutelsat subsidiary continues to operate KA-SAT and its associated ground stations, which Viasat acquired from European company Eutelsat last year.