Russia was behind a massive cyberattack against a satellite internet network which took thousands of modems offline at the onset of the war in Ukraine, Britain, the European Union and Australia say.
The digital assault against Viasat’s KA-SAT network in late February took place just as Russian armour pushed into Ukraine and helped facilitate President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country, the Council of the EU said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This cyberattack had a significant impact causing indiscriminate communication outages and disruptions across several public authorities, businesses and users in Ukraine, as well as affecting several EU Member States,” the statement said.
A British Foreign Office statement quoted Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as saying the cyberattack was a “deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine”.
Russia’s primary target in the attack was the Ukrainian military, but it also disrupted wind farms and internet users in central Europe, the statement said, citing Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
The Foreign Office statement cited “new UK and US intelligence” which suggested Russia was behind the cyberattack, without elaborating.
The remote sabotage caused a “huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war,” Ukrainian cybersecurity official Victor Zhora said in March.
The Australian government on Monday issued a statement criticising the Russian cyber attacks in February which it said were aimed at disrupting Ukrainian command and control systems during the invasion.
“These unacceptable activities are further examples of Moscow’s indiscriminate approach to cyber operations and blatant disregard for the effects of such operations on the public, including through the commercial sector,” the statement said.
“Australia is committed to imposing costs on state-based or state-sponsored malicious actors who seek to undermine an open, free, safe and secure cyberspace,” the statement by Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Defence Minister Peter Dutton and Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said.
Russia routinely denies it carries out offensive cyber operations. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.