The European Union accuses Russia of carrying out “malicious cyber activities” against Ukraine. One specific attack, the one against the satellite network KA-SAT, has been strongly condemned. Member States are considering taking further steps to stop Russia.
This is stated in a press statement from the European Council, which includes the heads of government of all 27 EU countries.
According to the Council, the cyber attack on the satellite network took place one hour before the invasion of Russian tanks in Ukraine on 24 February. The government leaders suspect that Russia carried out the attack to facilitate the invasion. The digital attack said it had a “significant impact” because communication was disrupted. Not only companies and users in Ukraine, but also in the other EU Member States were affected by this outage.
The European Council therefore strongly condemns Russia’s attack on the satellite network. “This unacceptable cyberattack is yet another example of Russia’s continuing pattern of irresponsible behaviour in cyberspace, which was also an integral part of the illegal and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine,” the Council said.
She emphasizes that Russia’s behaviour goes against all expectations that members of the United Nations (UN) have. States must demonstrate “responsible behaviour” both in the physical world and in cyberspace.
Security of European citizens at stake
The Russian cyberattacks target, among other things, the vital infrastructure of Ukraine, the Council says. She refers to the attempt by Russian hackers to shut down the Ukrainian electricity network. A ‘military hacking team’ – believed to be the Russian hacker group Sandworm – attacked a Ukrainian energy supplier to stem the tide of the Russian invasion. Cybersecurity experts managed to repel the attack.
The European Council is concerned that attacks on the vital sector are spreading to other countries and have “systemic consequences”. This threatens the safety of European citizens. The EU will not let that pass.
“The European Union, in close cooperation with its partners, is considering further steps to prevent, deter, deter and address such malicious behaviour in cyberspace,” the press release said. The Council pledges to continue to provide financial and material support to Ukraine to increase cyber resilience.
Hundreds of cyber attacks by Russian state hackers
It is the first time that the European Council has spoken out so strongly against Russia. The EU has pointed out the dangers of cyber-attacks on more than one occasion. Making Russia directly responsible for the attacks was, politically, a step too far. However, she emphasized that the attacks were carried out from Russian territory. The Kremlin has always denied having anything to do with these attacks.
Research by Microsoft shows that Russian state hackers have been responsible for hundreds of cyberattacks since the war broke out. According to the American hardware and software company, there are at least 237 attacks. The hackers also spread disinformation in the hope that confidence in the Ukrainian government would decline. Finally, Microsoft saw “limited espionage activities” involving NATO member states.
The Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) recently reported that Russian state hackers in particular are increasingly carrying out attacks. This mainly involves spam and phishing campaigns to obtain usernames and passwords from Eastern European politicians, government officials, journalists and NGOs. TAG also saw that Chinese state hackers more often target Russian targets.
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