Ukraine's Largest Phone Operator Hack Tied to War With Russia

Cyber Security Threat Summary:
Ukraine’s largest mobile network operator Kyivstar was impacted by a cyber event that lead to significant shutdowns. The company, which is owned by Amsterdam-based Veon, announced on December 12th, that a powerful cyber attack caused technical failure, which impacted Internet access and mobile communications for customers.

Although Kyivstar did not make any attribution at the time of writing, two hours after its post, its director general told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the firm considered the attack to be linked with the war against Russia.

Security Officer Comments:
Kyivstar posted on social media that it was working with law enforcement agencies, Ukrainian state services, and was working to restore communications as soon as possible. The company also noted that customer personal data was not compromised in the attacks, but warned that continued threat activity from adversaries may continue.

Ukraine’s government confirmed to AFP that it started investigating the incident and that Russia was “suspected” of being behind it. Both Cloudflare, a content delivery network (CDN) provider, and Netblocks, an internet monitoring firm, noticed disruptions on the Kyivstar internet network on December 12.

While there is no evidence of these two events being related, the Ukrainian payment system Monobank also reported being targeted by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack just a few hours after Kyivstar’s social media post.

Nation state groups and ideological hacktivist groups will consider disruptive attacks against their adversaries critical infrastructure in times of global conflicts. The United States has also seen critical infrastructure targeting as a result of our involvement in the Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Hamas, and Taiwan/China conflicts. Organizations responsible for critical services should remain vigilant and monitor global cyber activity, as these tactics could be used against our own critical infrastructure.