Ukraine says Russian hackers infiltrated a major telecom provider for months before launching a cyberattack on Dec. 12 that crippled communications services.
In an interview, Illia Vitiuk, head of the cybersecurity division at SBU, Ukraine’s intelligence agency, revealed that the cybercriminals have been inside Kyivstar’s systems since at least May. He noted that the incident destroyed the telecom company’s “core” but did not impact the Ukrainian military. SBU helped Kyivstar restore its systems within days of the attack, he added.
Vitiuk warned that the attack, one of the largest since Russia’s invasion in 2022, sends a message to the whole Western world that nobody is untouchable, noting that Kyivstar was a wealthy company with many resources to invest in strengthening its cybersecurity.
Politico reported that the Dec. 12 attack caused over 24.3 million Kyivstar customers to lose phone reception. Banks, including the state-owned Privatbank, also reported service disruptions due to the outage.
A spokesperson from the telecom provider said it is working with SBU to investigate the hack and eliminate similar risks in the future.