WASHINGTON — A cyberattack that disrupted satellite communications in Ukraine hours before the Feb. 24 invasion was provoked by the Russian government, the United States and European nations said Tuesday, officially blaming the attack for unnerving the Pentagon and industry. private because it revealed new vulnerabilities in global communication systems.
In a coordinated series of statements, the governments blamed Moscow but did not explicitly name the organization that carried out the sophisticated effort to shut down Ukrainian communications.
However, US officials who spoke anonymously about the specifics of the findings said it was the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU — the same group responsible for the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and a series of attacks against the United States and Ukraine.
“This unacceptable cyberattack is another example of Russia’s continuing pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace, which was also an integral part of the illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” said Josep Borrell Fontelles, a senior European Union diplomat, via of a statement.
“The cyberattacks targeted Ukraine, including its critical infrastructure, and could spill over into other countries and cause systemic effects, putting the security of Europe’s citizens at risk.”
The attack targeted a system run by Viasat, a California company that provides high-speed satellite communication services—and was used largely by the Ukrainian government.
The attack occurred weeks before Ukrainian government websites were targeted by data-destroying “wiper” software.
The attack on Viasat was intended to disrupt Ukraine’s command and control of its troops during the crucial first hours of the Russian invasion, US and European officials said.
The hack also disconnected thousands of civilians in Ukraine and across Europe from the Internet.