The UK, US and EU have formally accused Russia of being behind a cyber attack targeting a satellite communications network used in Ukraine.
Businesses and individuals using routers made by Viasat, an American business that provides broadband-speed satellite internet connections, were knocked offline just before tanks began to roll into the country.
“The cyberattack took place one hour before Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, thus facilitating the military aggression,” the EU said in its statement.
“Although the primary target is believed to have been the Ukrainian military, other customers were affected, including personal and commercial internet users,” the Foreign Office added.
As a result of the attack 5,800 wind turbines in Germany were knocked offline as they depended upon Viasat routers for remote monitoring and control.
The company said in total tens of thousands of its terminals were effectively destroyed and needed to be replaced.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is clear and shocking evidence of a deliberate and malicious attack by Russia against Ukraine which had significant consequences on ordinary people and businesses in Ukraine and across Europe.
“We will continue to call out Russia’s malign behaviour and unprovoked aggression across land, sea and cyberspace, and ensure it faces severe consequences.”
Viasat previously stated that it was “working closely” with wholesale distributors to bring its customers back online.
“Because of the wholesale nature of the business, Viasat does not typically transact directly with end-users. Instead the distributors work directly with end-customers and can identify those affected to provide support for restoring service.”
The company said that new modems are being provided as the most efficient way to restore service.
“Viasat has already shipped tens of thousands of replacement modems to distributors and is ready to ship additional modems as needed,” it added.
The attack was described as “yet another example of Russia’s continued pattern of irresponsible behaviour in cyberspace, which also formed an integral part of its illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” in the EU’s statement
“Such behaviour is contrary to the expectations set by all UN member states, including the Russian Federation, of responsible state behaviour and the intentions of states in cyberspace.
“Russia must stop this war and bring an end to the senseless human suffering immediately,” the EU added.