Russia Began Its Ukraine Invasion By Hacking Thousands Of Vulnerable Satellite Modems
Officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the situation, said Russia's military spy service, the GRU, was behind the breach. GRU is the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, formerly known as Main Intelligence Directorate. GRU has a reputation for being willing to take on riskier operations, and is said to be the country's largest foreign-intelligence agency. The agency has a history of operations against Ukraine, including a 2014 hack of Ukraine's Central Election Commission, and its energy grid in 2015 and 2016.
The affected modems were a part of Viasat's European satellite network, KA-SAT. While the cyberattack did affect civilian customers, Victor Zhora, Deputy Head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, stated, "Of course, they were targeting the potential of (the) Ukrainian military forces first as this happened just before the invasion."
Zhora said shortly after the invasion that the attack had "a really huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war."
While Ukraine now has Starlink satellite coverage, Dmitri Alperovitch, a cyber expert and chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank, noted, "We can't know for sure, but this KA-SAT attack may have had a serious impact on degrading Ukrainian military capabilities at the outset of the war."