Kyivstar Cyber-Attack: Unraveling What We Know Till Date

December 14, 2023
1 min read
  • Millions of Ukrainians were left without access to internet and mobile services after a sophisticated cyber-attack disabled Kyivstar, the country’s leading telecommunications operator.
  • The breach resulted in over 24.3 million people losing mobile signals and severely impacted various sectors, including banking and infrastructure.
  • The damage caused to Kyivstar’s IT infrastructure was substantial to the point where the company had to physically disconnect from the network.
  • Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov stated that the assault was well-planned and professional, revealing that hackers had exploited a perimeter vulnerability.
  • A Russian hacker collective named Solntsepek claimed responsibility for the attack, which however, is potentially being directed or approved by Kremlin—given its scale.

The massive cyber-attack against Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest telecommunication service provider, left millions of Ukrainians without mobile and internet services. Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov states that the assault was “an enormous hit” to the company’s infrastructure. He further disclosed that it was a result of a well-planned, professionally executed maneuver, where hackers used a perimeter vulnerability to infiltrate the system.

The attack not only left millions of Ukrainian citizens without a mobile signal—a vital tool in a country where air raid alerts and updates on potential Russian assaults are usually disseminated via mobile phones—but it also critically impacted the nation’s financial sector and infrastructure. The functionality of a vast number of ATMs, credit card payment systems, and even Lviv’s automated street-lighting control was compromised.

Speaking about the extent of damage caused to Kyivstar’s IT infrastructure, Komarov explained that it was damaging to the point that Kyivstar had to be physically unplugged from the network since the assault could not be virtually countered. He also shared that the road to recovery is filled with new complications and concerns about leaving any vulnerabilities unraveled and open for the attackers.

Suspicion immediately turned towards Russia. A security source told Reuters that data cable intercepts showed a significant amount of “Russian controlled traffic directed at these networks.” On Wednesday, a group of Russian hackers called Solntsepek claimed responsibility for the attack, stating they attacked Kyivstar because it provides communications to Ukraine’s armed forces, government bodies, and law enforcement agencies. However, it’s worth noting that such hacker groups usually work under Kremlin’s direction or with their implicit approval.

This attack indicates the ever-growing digital warfront between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine has successfully fended off numerous Kremlin-led cyber-attacks over the years. However, this assault marks the first successful large-scale hack since the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in 2022.

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