On February 24, just an hour prior to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the European Union publicly blamed Russia for conducting a cyberattack that targeted satellite Internet modems in Ukraine. The prime focus of the event was Viasat’s consumer-oriented satellite internet service, KA-SAT.
According to Viasat, it disrupted thousands of Ukrainian clients and several thousands of other broadband consumers across Europe. The lack of satellite internet also caused the modems that controlled Germany’s 5,800 wind turbines to go down. Viasat disclosed a week after the attack that the targeted satellite modems had been deleted using AcidRain data-destroying malware.
“The European Union and its Member States, together with its international partners, strongly condemn the malicious cyber activity conducted by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which targeted the satellite KA-SAT network, operated by Viasat,” said Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“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 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK also accused Russia of being behind the hack on Viasat modems in Ukraine on February 24. According to the UK’s press release, new UK and US information reveals Russia was behind an operation targeting commercial communications provider Viasat in Ukraine.
The news comes as cyber security leaders from the Five Eyes, the EU, and foreign partners meet in Newport for the NCSC’s Cyber UK conference to examine global cyber threats. While the Biden government has yet to release a joint statement with its European partners, the US government said in March that it was looking into the Viasat intrusion as a possible Russian state-sponsored cyberattack.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) also hinted an inter-agency and allied initiative to “assess the scope and severity of the incident,” which included Ukrainian intelligence. Following the incident, CISA and the FBI issued a combined alert warning US organizations of “possible threats” to SATCOM networks in the US and throughout the world.