‘Most serious’ cyber attack since Russian invasion of internet provider in Ukraine crashes

A “vigorous” cyber attack has hit Ukraine’s national telecommunications company, Ukrtelecom. Described as the worst cyber-attack since the Russian invasion began in February, it has sent the company’s services across the country.

Victor Zhora, deputy head of the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection, confirmed that Forbes that the government was investigating the attack. He said it is not yet known whether Ukrtelecom has already been hit by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack or a deeper, more sophisticated intrusion.

The attack has only been acknowledged by Ukrtelecom in responses to customer comments on Facebook. In one, it responded by saying that the services were unavailable due to a “vigorous cyber attack by the enemy”. When Forbes Ukrtelecom sent a message via Facebook, an automatic response was given that read: “Currently, there are problems using the Ukrtelecom internet service. Our specialists are doing everything they can to solve this problem as soon as possible.

“Due to the abnormal load and issues with internal systems, the contact center operators and Facebook are unable to process customer requests.”

NetBlocks, which tracks internet outages around the world, found that Ukrtelecom had been dealing with disrupted service since this morning, “collapsing to 13% of pre-war levels.”

Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, said: Forbes that the “gradual loss of connectivity was a giveaway that it wasn’t a power or cable break.” He had tweeted that the attack was the most important since the Russian invasion.

“The new attack has deeply severed Ukraine’s connectivity on a national scale and with a longer duration and impact,” he said Forbes† “Unlike the wave of budget cuts and power cuts in the hottest conflict zones, this one has hit the nation’s national operator at its core and they appear to be struggling to contain the incident.”

Ukrtelecom, which claims to be the “largest landline operator in Ukraine”, had not immediately responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

While the cyberwar side of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been more muted than most expected, it’s ongoing. Telecom companies have been subject to severe cyber-attacks, but for the most part have avoided serious harmful effects. Such as Forbes had previously reported that a smaller Internet service provider, Triolan, had suffered a breach in which hackers had factory reset some of its systems, suggesting a deep network breach.

Last week, Ukraine’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) released statistics showing that the country had been subject to 60 different cyber-attacks. It said 11 had targeted the government and local authorities, while eight hit military personnel and law enforcement officers. Only four had been affected by telecom and other technology companies. Most of those cyber-attacks have focused on gathering information, although a series of “wiper” attacks aimed at destroying data on targeted computers have been launched in Ukrainian entities.

“Despite the growing number of attacks, most of them are unsuccessful,” the CERT noted. “Even the successful ones have almost no impact on the work of the critical infrastructure.”

The telecom companies in Ukraine must also keep the internet going in the face of missile attacks. Like a Forbes The story revealed that during the quieter hours, teams went to bombed-out cities, from Kharkov to Okhtyrka, to replace and repair equipment.

READ MORE: Ukrainian engineers compete to keep the internet going as Russian bombs fall around them

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