Unraveling Kyivstar Cyber-Attack: The Story so Far in a Nutshell.

December 14, 2023
1 min read
  • Millions of Ukrainians were left without mobile and internet services due to a massive cyber-attack on the country’s main telecommunications operator, Kyivstar.
  • The attack, which reportedly came from a state actor, likely Russia, also affected credit payment processing, ATM functioning, and street lighting control.
  • Authorities are working on resuming services and ensuring that no vulnerabilities are open for further attacks.
  • A Russian hacker collective called Solntsepek claimed responsibility for the attack, but Kyivstar denied their claim of destroying a large number of computers and servers.
  • The attack comes as part of escalating cyber warfare against Ukraine, coinciding with Russia’s military invasion.

On Tuesday, more than half of Ukraine’s population were left without mobile services, a severe blow given the ongoing conflict with Russia and the reliance on mobile services for information and alerts. The cyber-attack on Kyivstar also led to the disruption of credit card transactions, ATM services, and even the automatic control of street lighting in the city of Lviv. The attack seems to have exploited a perimeter vulnerability in Kyivstar’s system.

According to Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov, the cyber-attack was a well-planned, professional attempt from multiple perspectives. He revealed that the attack significantly damaged the company’s IT infrastructure, forcing them to physically disconnect from the network. The company is currently working on resuming normal services, but Komarov mentioned encountering new problems and the necessity of ensuring no backdoors are left open for potential secondary attacks.

Russia is the primary suspect behind the attack, with a security source revealing that a significant amount of Russian-controlled traffic was redirected to Kyivstar’s network. This incident is part of an escalating series of cyber-attacks Ukraine has been facing from the Kremlin, with the current one being the first major successful hack.

A Russian hacker group called Solntsepek claimed responsibility for the attack on Kyivstar, adding that they initiated the attack because Kyivstar provides communication services to Ukraine’s Armed Forces and government agencies. However, Komarov dismissed the group’s claim of destroying computers and servers in Kyivstar. He also speculated that other triggers could be their exit from Russia, patriotic stance, critical infrastructure status, or even President Zelensky’s US visit.

Kyivstar spokesman Volodymyr Fityo confirmed that the cyber-attack did not impact the operations of the land forces. Despite the inconvenience caused to civilians, the authorities are making efforts to restore services and fortify the system to counter any future attacks.

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