Kremlin-backed groups disrupt 24 million mobile users.
Urgent cybersecurity measures needed amid severe repercussions.
Ukrainian civilians find themselves in the midst of a digital crisis as the nation contends with extensive cellular phone and internet outages for a second consecutive day, a consequence of a devastating cyberattack that targeted the country’s largest mobile phone and internet provider, Kyivstar.
Kremlin-Backed Hackers Behind Assault
The attack, orchestrated by Kremlin-backed hackers, struck at the heart of Ukraine’s digital infrastructure, affecting a staggering 24.3 million mobile subscribers and over 1.1 million home internet users reliant on Kyivstar’s services.
Two Russian-Linked Hacking Groups Claim Responsibility
Responsibility for the assault has been claimed by two hacking groups, Killnet and Solntsepek, both linked to the Russian government. Killnet vaguely stated on Telegram that Ukrainian mobile operators and some banks were targeted, while Solntsepek boasted about the destruction of 10,000 computers, over 4,000 servers, and all cloud storage and backup systems belonging to Kyivstar.
Severe Repercussions on Critical Services and Businesses
The repercussions of the cyberattack were swift and severe. In the city of Lviv, disruptions in essential services were experienced, with street lights dependent on internet-driven automated power switches requiring manual disconnection after sunrise. The outage further crippled businesses nationwide, hindering credit card transactions and rendering numerous ATMs non-functional.
Critical systems, including air alert systems warning of incoming missile attacks, were also affected, prompting authorities to resort to backup alarms. The cyber assault adds to the challenges faced by Ukraine during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
Unprecedented Cyberattack and Prolonged Recovery
Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov described the cyberattack as unprecedented, marking one of the most significant compromises on a civilian telecommunications provider. He stated that the restoration of all additional services would likely take several weeks.
The attack reportedly originated from the infiltration of an internal employee account, according to a report by the New Voice of Ukraine. Solntsepek, known for its ties to the notorious “Sandworm” hacking group affiliated with the Russian military’s GRU unit, has a history of involvement in destructive cyberattacks, including the infamous NotPetya worm that caused an estimated $10 billion in global damages.
Escalating Cyber Threats Demand Swift Responses
This latest incident underscores the escalating cyber threats faced by Ukraine, demanding swift and comprehensive responses to safeguard digital infrastructure. As the nation grapples with the aftermath of the cyber onslaught, there is a heightened awareness of the need for cybersecurity measures to protect against future attacks.
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