Russian hackers have been sitting inside Ukrainian telecommunications company Kyivstar’s systems since May 2023, a top cyber official in Ukraine told Reuters.
The hack affected the company and its 24 million users for multiple days starting December 12th. Reuters reports that this is one of Russia’s most dramatic hacks since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Kyivstar is a telecommunications company covering all cities within Ukraine, alongside 28,000 rural, coastal, and regional areas.
Besides mobile and internet outages, IT infrastructure was reportedly severely damaged, and in some parts of the country, air raid alert systems – relied on by citizens for safety in the event of a Russian strike – were also down.
Illia Vitiuk, cyber chief for the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), told Reuters that the attack had “disastrous” effects with the intention of inflicting psychological torment and gathering information.
During the interview with Reuters, Vitiuk explained that, during the investigation into the hack, the SSU discovered that adversaries intended to attack and possibly attempted the hack in March.
The invasive nature of the attack allowed hackers to potentially steal personal information, locate phones, intercept SMS, and even steal Telegram accounts, Vitiuk said.
Kyivstar has launched an ongoing investigation together with the SBU and is taking necessary precautions to mitigate future attacks, a spokesperson told Reuters.
The spokesperson added that there’s no evidence that the personal data of individuals who are subscribed to the service has been disclosed.
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