Russia Hacked Ukrainian Satellite Communications

Russia is believed to have hacked the US satellite communications provider Viasat on the same day as its Ukraine invasion. More than 22,000 miles above Earth, the KA-SAT is in geostationary orbit at 7,000 miles per hour. The the satellite beams high-speed Internet to users across Europe where  it has helped homeowners, businesses, and militaries get online since 2011. 

As Russian troops moved into Ukraine on  February 24, satellite Internet connections were disrupted. Numerous users were affected included some in the Ukrainian military, and the attack dramatically demonstrated the vulnerability of commercial satellite communications on which the US military increasingly relies. 

It is now believed that the Russian military spy service, the GRU, was behind a hack that affected the Ukrainian military’s communications at the start of Russia's invasion into the country. The hack affected the KA-SAT satellite broadband network, owned by Viasat, an American satellite communications company. On February 24th, the day the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the KA-SAT network was hit by outages that affected Ukraine and surrounding regions in Europe. 

Sources say that the GRU has led in operations against Ukraine, although there have not been major cyber attacks against the West from from this source, so far.  Overall, Ukraine has proved more resilient to cyber attacks than many had expected. 

Intelligence agencies  say the attack fits closely with Russian military doctrine, in which cyber attacks are used to support specific military objectives, in this case trying to sow confusion by disrupting Ukrainian command and control. It appears to be the most significant cyber attack linked to the conflict so far, affecting military, as well as government communications. 

In the US, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned that they are "aware of possible threats to US and international satellite communication networks", and have urged providers to improve their security because of the continuing potential risks. 

One concern had been that Russia could retaliate for Western sanctions by launching cyber attacks against the West, perhaps unleashing criminal gangs who use ransomware to lock businesses and organisations out of their systems. 

The White House has warned that it has seen intelligence of possible activity, however, it is not clear yet whether this is above the normal level of Russian cyber activity that is happening all the time or whether it is an indication that Russia is preparing for something more serious.

Satellite Internet connections are often used in areas with low cable coverage and are used by everyday citizens, as well as official organisations.  The set-up is different from your typical home or office Wi-Fi network, which mostly rely on wired broadband connections. 

AirForce Magazine:    BBC:    The Verge:     Washington Post:      The Hill:    Wired:      Samachar Central:

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