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EU, US, UK blame Russia for Viasat hack

May 12, 2022

By Chris Forrester

The European Union, the UK and the US government have all formally blamed the Russian government for the February 24th hack and damage to Viasat satellite modems in Europe in the hours before the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian hack of Viasat’s modems resulted in an immediate and significant loss of communication in the earliest days of the war for the Ukrainian military, which relied on Viasat’s services for command and control of the country’s armed forces. It also impacted different sites across Europe including German wind farms and Internet users across central Europe.

The attack launched destructive wiper malware called AcidRain against Viasat modems and routers, quickly erasing all the data on the system. The machines then rebooted and were permanently disabled.

In coordinated statements from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the Council of the European Union. The UK comment — which cites “new UK and US intelligence” — noted that the Viasat hack was just one of several cyberattacks the Russian government launched prior to the invasion of Ukraine, including the January 13th defacement of Ukrainian websites and the deployment of destructive malware.

“The EU and its Member States, together with its international partners, strongly condemn the malicious cyber activity conducted by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which targeted the satellite KA-SAT network, operated by Viasat,” said Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and VP/ of the European Commission.

“This unacceptable cyberattack is yet another example of Russia’s continued pattern of irresponsible behaviour in cyberspace, which also formed an integral part of its illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” Fontelles added. “Such behaviour is contrary to the expectations set by all UN Member States, including the Russian Federation, of responsible State behaviour and the intentions of States in cyberspace.”

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in his statement that the US was also “sharing publicly its assessment that Russia launched cyber attacks in late February against commercial satellite communications networks to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion, and those actions had spillover impacts into other European countries.”

Canadian and Australian comments echoed those of the EU, UK and US.

Viasat, in comments to the BBC, said: “We recognise international governments have identified who they believe to be responsible for the cyberattack on the KA-SAT network. We have and will continue to work closely with relevant law enforcement and governmental authorities as part of the ongoing investigation”.

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