Cyber dangers exposed: Ukrainian telecoms hacked amidst Russia’s invasion

December 21, 2023
1 min read

Key Points:

– A recent cyber attack on Ukraine‚Äôs largest telecommunications provider, Kyivstar, highlights the cyber dangers of Russia’s invasion.
– The attack, which disrupted services and impacted businesses and the air raid warning system, was described as the “biggest cyber attack on telco infrastructure in the world.”
– While the group Solntsepyok claimed responsibility for the attack, Ukraine’s state cyber security agency believes it was carried out by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

The recent cyber attack on Ukraine’s largest telecommunications provider, Kyivstar, has brought the cyber dangers of Russia’s invasion back into focus. The attack, which occurred on December 12, disrupted services for millions of subscribers and impacted businesses and the air raid warning system. Kyivstar’s CEO described it as the “biggest cyber attack on telco infrastructure in the world.” While a group called Solntsepyok claimed responsibility for the attack, Ukraine’s state cyber security agency believes it was carried out by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency. This incident is a reminder of the threat posed by Russia in cyberspace.

Russia has been recognized as a pioneer in cyber warfare since a landmark cyber attack on Estonia in 2007. The country has been accused of using both state security agencies and non-state actors in its cyber operations to create ambiguity and plausible deniability. While cyber attacks have been a feature of Russian aggression against Ukraine since 2014, the cyber front has been relatively quiet since the launch of the full-scale invasion in 2022. However, experts are now warning that the recent attack on Kyivstar may signal an intensification of Russian cyber activities, especially targeting key infrastructure targets.

Ukraine has been actively working to improve its cyber defense capabilities through international partnerships with tech companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon Web Services, and Google. However, there are concerns that Ukraine’s increasing digitalization leaves it vulnerable to further cyber attacks. Some experts also suggest that Ukraine’s cyber security bodies may require reform, particularly in addressing allegations of corruption within the infrastructure. As Ukraine continues to battle the Russian invasion, cyber attacks like the one on Kyivstar serve as a reminder that the conflict is not just about tanks and missiles, but also about the cyber front.

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