Satellite outage caused 'huge loss in communications' at war's outset -Ukrainian official

Viasat offices are shown at the company's headquarters in Carlsbad, California, U.S. March 9, 2022. Picture taken March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Washington, March 15 (Reuters) - A senior Ukrainian cybersecurity official said that the digital sabotage that hit Viasat's KA-SAT network last month caused a massive communications outage at the outset of Russia's invasion.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Victor Zhora said he could not reveal much about the incident, which crippled tens of thousands of satellite modems across Europe on the morning of Feb. 24, just as Russian armor pushed into Ukraine.

It was "a really huge loss in communications in the very beginning of war," Zhora said.

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"That's probably all that I can say on this particular case," he added.

The outage at Viasat Inc (VSAT.O) was triggered by a cyber attack that disabled a large number of modems across Europe between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. Kyiv time, just as Russian forces started going into Ukraine and firing missiles.

The U.S. National Security Agency and France's governmental cybersecurity body ANSSI are among those investigating the hack. Both organizations are assessing whether the sabotage was the work of Russian-state backed hackers preparing the battlefield. read more

Viasat did not immediately return an email seeking comment. The Russian Embassy in Washington also did not immediately respond.

Zhora said it was too soon to say who was behind the hack, although he noted that "we believe that Russia is attacking not just with missiles and with bombs, but with cyber weapons."

"I hope detailed attribution will be made later," he told reporters.

The hack affected not only modems in Ukraine but across Europe, notably those used in wind turbines operated by German energy company Enercon. read more

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Enercon said that 85% of its modems were still offline and that a full recovery was likely to take "some further weeks."

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Reporting by Raphael Satter Editing by Bill Berkrot

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