Ukraine's Largest Mobile Network Hit By Major Cyberattack Blamed On Russia

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Dec 12, 2023 - 04:25 PM

Ukraine has accused Russia of being behind a major cyberattack against the country's main mobile network Kyivstar, which has left masses of customers without phone or internet access. The outage has reportedly even left one city, Sumy, without its mobile air raid sirens, crucial for warning residents of inbound Russian drones or missiles. 

Kyivstar says it was targeted in a "powerful hacker attack" which Ukraine's security services are currently investigating. The network is responsible for about 24 million mobile customers and supplying internet access to some one million homes. Businesses too have been impacted. 

"This is definitely a cyberattack and the probability that Russian entities are behind it is very close to 100%," chief executive officer of Kyivstar, Oleksandr Komarov, said Tuesday. He called it the result of "illegal interference" and linked it to the ongoing Russian invasion. "The war with Russia has many dimensions and one of them is in cyberspace."

Bloomberg cited him further as saying "It’s the biggest such attack since the Kremlin started its invasion in February, 2022." Ukraine's ministry which oversees infrastructure says it is hoping to restore service within hours.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is also involved and has pointed the finger at Moscow, describing, "One of the versions currently being investigated by SBU investigators is that the Russian special services may be behind this hacker attack."

PrivatBank, which is Ukraine's largest, documented that some ATM machines were not working and could be "unstable" or "have no connection". Dutch parent company Veon says it's urgently working with Kyivstar on "additional security measures" to prevent such hacks in the future.

At the same time, Ukraine's intelligence services have recently owned up to hacking operations targeting Russia, including an operation reportedly targeting Russia's national tax and financial accounting systems.

While during the opening months of the war especially power and civic infrastructure was heavily targeted by Russian drone and missile attacks, cyber operations have also been a consistent part of the Russian military arsenal. 

But over the past six months as Russian operations have been more focused on the eastern and southern regions, the kind of nation-wide power or telecoms outages seen early in the conflict have become rare. It seems the Kremlin launches broader attacks on civilian infrastructure in instances of retaliation, however, for example in response to major Ukrainian attacks on Crimea or Russian border cities or regions like Belgorod.