The European Union and United Kingdom blamed Russia Tuesday for a hack impacting internet and communications services in Ukraine on the morning of Russia’s invasion February 24.
A hack on Viasat’s KA-SAT satellite internet and communications service to Ukraine was conducted by the Russian government, the EU and UK said in separate statements, citing British and American intelligence.
This is the first time the EU has explicitly blamed a government actor for a cyber attack, according to NPR reporter Teri Schultz.
The attack occurred an hour before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, disrupting Ukrainian military communications and sending tens of thousands of satellite modems offline, according to U.S.-based Viasat.
Anonymous U.S. officials told the Washington Post in March they believed the GRU Russian military intelligence agency conducted the Viasat hack, though the U.S. has yet to officially say Russia was behind the attack.
Leading up to the war, many experts suggested the Russian government would precede any invasion with cyberattacks targeting Ukrainian infrastructure. Hackers linked to the Russian government have long been linked to malicious cyber activity in Ukraine, including against Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016. Russia’s hacking operations have targeted governments and infrastructure far past Ukraine, and Microsoft said last October Russia accounted for 58% of all observed state-sponsored cyberattacks over the prior year. The White House warned in March it had “evolving intelligence” that the Russian government was planning a cyber attack on American infrastructure, though there have yet to be reports of major hacks in the U.S. linked to the Kremlin.
“This unacceptable cyberattack is yet another example of Russia’s continued pattern of irresponsible behaviour in cyberspace, which also formed an integral part of its illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” the Council of the EU said in a statement.
237. That’s how many malicious cyber incidents against Ukraine from suspected Russian state actors Microsoft has observed, the company said April 27.