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Elon Musk says Russia ‘ramping up’ cyber war amid reports Moscow downed Ukraine’s internet

Right from the onset, Russia’s war on Ukraine has been fought on two fronts — military and cyber. Now, based on intelligence reports, the US, UK and the European Union have collectively alleged that Moscow carried out a large-scale digital attack to cripple Ukraine’s satellite internet network in late February with the aim to “disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion”.

Tweeting a Reuters report on the major Russian cyberattack, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk claimed his Starlink satellite internet service has also been targeted by Moscow, which is becoming increasingly indiscriminate in its efforts to sabotage the network.

“Starlink has resisted Russian cyber war jamming and hacking attempts so far, but they’re ramping up their efforts,” Musk said.

Russia has consistently denied that it carries out offensive cyber operations.

On February 26, responding to a plea from the Ukrainian government, Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX shipped thousands of Starlink dishes to the war zone. Now, the satellite internet service is widely used by the country’s military and hospitals.

A couple of days ago, Musk shared screenshots of a Telegram post by the head of Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency), Dmitry Rogozin, threatening the Tesla CEO “with consequences” for providing Starlink services to Ukraine’s Azov Battalion and Marine forces.

READ | Nice knowin ya: Elon Musk tweets about his ‘mysterious death’

RUSSIA’S MASSIVE CYBERATTACK

In the early hours of February 24, as Russian forces entered eastern Ukraine, hackers crippled tens of thousands of satellite internet modems in Ukraine and across Europe.

The modems provided internet to thousands of Ukrainians. It remains one of the biggest publicly known cyberattacks to have taken place in the conflict.

The attack, against a network controlled by US satellite firm Viasat, caused a “really huge loss in communications” at the outset of the war, Ukrainian cybersecurity officials said.

READ | Ukraine President speaks with Elon Musk, to get more Starlink internet terminals for destroyed cities

SUSTAINED DIGITAL ONSLAUGHT

In the weeks ahead of Russia’s invasion, there was a flurry of cyber operations against Ukrainian targets. In January, researchers discovered destructive malware called WhisperGate circulating in Ukraine.

After WhisperGate’s discovery, a spate of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks briefly knocked Ukrainian banking and government websites offline. Based on intelligence reports, the US and UK attributed the attack to Russia.

Then, days before the invasion, cybersecurity researchers discovered more data-wiping malware in Ukraine.

On April 12, Ukraine’s computer emergency response team said in a series of statements that an elite Russian hacking team known as Sandworm had attempted days earlier to cause a blackout in the country.

(With Reuters inputs)

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