Ukraine's largest mobile operator Kyivstar downed by 'powerful' cyberattack

Ukraine’s largest telecommunications operator Kyivstar says it has been hit by a “powerful” cyberattack that has disrupted phone and internet services for millions of people across the country.

In a Facebook post confirming the incident on Tuesday, Kyivstar wrote that the cyberattack has caused a “technical failure” that left customers without mobile connections or internet access. Kyivstar serves more than 24 million cell phone subscribers and more than 1.1 million home internet users, according to the company’s website, which was also inaccessible at the time of writing.

Officials in the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy also warned that its air raid alert system was also affected by the Kyivstar outage. “The notification system will temporarily not work,” according to a statement by Sumy’s regional military administration posted to Telegram.

Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov said in a video statement that Russia was responsible for the outage. “The war with the Russian Federation has many dimensions, and one of them is in cyberspace,” said Komarov. “Unfortunately, this morning the operator became the target of a super-powerful cyberattack, because of which communications services and internet access are unavailable.”

When asked whether it believed Russia was behind the attack, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Special Communications Service, or SSSCIP, told TechCrunch that “it is too early to draw conclusions.”

“The investigation of the incident, which caused a technical failure in the operator’s work, as a result of which communication and internet access services are temporarily unavailable, is ongoing by specialists of the relevant services,” the SSSCIP spokesperson, who did not provide a name, added. “Among others, specialists of the Government Computer Emergency Response Team CERT-UA are involved in this work.”

Kyivstar spokesperson Iryna Lelichenko was not immediately available to answer TechCrunch’s questions.

In his video statement, Oleksandr added that “it is still not completely clear” when the telecoms giant will restore normal operations. Netherlands-based VEON, Kyivstar’s parent company, said in a statement its technical teams are “working on eliminating the consequences of the hacker attack and restoring communication as soon as possible.”

Kyivstar apologized for the “temporary inconvenience” and promised to compensate users who were affected by the outage, but said that the personal data of subscribers had not been compromised. “Yes, our enemies are treacherous. But we are ready to face any difficulties, overcome them and continue to work for Ukrainians,” the company added.

At the same time that Kyivstar came under attack, Monobank, one of Ukraine’s largest financial institutions, said it had also been targeted by hackers. The bank’s co-founder Oleh Gorokhovsky said in a post on Telegram that the organization had been struck by a “massive DDoS” attack, referring to cyberattacks that involve floods of junk internet traffic aimed at downing online sites and services, but added that “everything is under control.”

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