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Cyberattacks quietly launched by Russia before its invasion of Ukraine may have been more damaging than intended

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Russia is known for its potent cyber-warfare capabilities. So it is no surprise that Moscow launched cyberattacks against Ukrainian targets in the lead up …
Russia is known for its potent cyber-warfare capabilities. So it is no surprise that Moscow launched cyberattacks against Ukrainian targets in the lead up to its invasion in late February. Russian hackers went after a variety of Ukrainian targets in the private and public sectors, but one cyber weapon aimed at a specific military target spilled over and affected tens of thousands of devices outside Ukraine. A few hours before the Russian invasion began on February 24, Russian hackers launched a cyberweapon against Viasat, an American satellite communications company that has been providing communication services to the Ukrainian military. Named “AcidRain”, the cyberweapon was a kind of

malware known as a “wiper” that targeted Viasat modems and routers and erased all their data before permanently disabling them. The cyberattack targeted commercial satellite communications networks in an attempt to disrupt the Ukrainian military’s command and control and sow chaos among Ukrainian units on the battlefield as Russian forces crossed the border. The attack is one of the first examples of cyber used as part of a combined-arms operation, much like a military might use aircraft to soften a fortified target before tanks and infantry attack it. However, the Russian hackers appear to have let AcidRain run amok, either not able or not caring to limit the attack to Ukrainian devices. Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, told lawmakers this month that the Russian cyberattack “had an outsized impact” and affected a large number of ground satellite communication stations, also known as Very Small Aperture Terminals, or VSATs. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people outside Ukraine were affected in several ways, including losing internet services and power.

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