Hackers attack Viasat satellite network in Eastern Europe

A connection to the Ukraine crisis is suspected to be the reason for the attack.

Cyber hacking (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Cyber hacking (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The hacker attack on satellite network provider Viasat was apparently a targeted cyberattack. The company offers its customers fast, satellite-based Internet connections – including in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, the company had experienced significant malfunctions.

A "connection to the Ukraine conflict" is suspected, according to an internal paper by the German federal government, Der Spiegel reported.

Representatives of several German authorities had previously exchanged information with the US satellite operator. Viasat reported, "that in the Central/ Eastern Europe region, the terminals of commercial customers were sabotaged." Viasat had so far only said that a "cyberattack" was suspected to be behind the failures.

The attack caused numerous customers of the KA-SAT service operated by Viasat to no longer have internet access. According to the government paper, the hackers took the decisive step in their attack on the morning of the Russian attack on Ukraine. At 5 a.m. on February 24, they activated a faulty update, causing KA-SAT customers to lose their network access.

The consequences of the attack were also felt in Germany. At least three thousand wind turbines, which are connected to the grid via the satellite provider and can normally be maintained remotely, were suddenly no longer accessible - although they could continue to run and generate electricity.

The approach of spreading malware via software updates points to professional perpetrators, just as much as the strategic goal of the attack - disrupting communication in tandem with the invasion of Ukraine. Satellite internet providers have also been victims of complex cyber operations in the past, similar to Viasat.

Viasat is not the only satellite internet provider currently operating in Ukraine and encountering problems. Elon Musk activated and distributed his Starlink service for Ukraine two days after the start of the war and has already encountered several attempts of disruption.