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Kyivstar CEO: Hackers used compromised employee account to carry out attack

by Elsa Court December 13, 2023 10:04 PM 2 min read
A woman walks by a Kyivstar store in Kyiv on Dec. 12, 2023. (Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Russian hackers broke through Kyivstar's cyber security through the compromised account of one of the company's employees, Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov said on air on Dec. 13.

Kyivstar was targeted by a massive cyberattack on Dec. 12 which caused internet and network outages across Ukraine, as well as issues with air raid alerts. Monobank, one of Ukraine's largest banks, also reported a hack the same day.

Kyivstar services were being gradually restored as of the evening of Dec. 13. The company is Ukraine's leading phone services provider, with over 24 million mobile customers and is the home internet provider to one million Ukrainians.

"It must be admitted that this attack breached our defenses," Komarov said. "The account of one of the employees was compromised and the enemy was able to get into the middle of the company's infrastructure."

Komarov said an investigation is currently underway and that the company had strong cyber defenses, having repelled around 500 cyberattacks since the start of the full-scale invasion.

The company said it was targeted by the largest hacker attack in the history of telecommunications.  

According to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), a Russian hacker group with ties to Russia's military intelligence agency claimed responsibility for the attack.

Although the SBU did not specify the group's name, a Russian hacker group called Solntsepek claimed responsibility for the attack against Kyivstar in a statement published on Telegram earlier on Dec. 13.

"We attacked Kyivstar because the company provides communications to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as government agencies and law enforcement agencies of Ukraine," the group wrote on social media.

Solntsepek claimed that its attack had "destroyed" 10,000 computers, over 4,000 servers, and all cloud storage and backup systems.

Kyivstar denied that any computers or servers had been destroyed. The company also noted that subscribers' personal data remains safe.

The SBU, however, acknowledged that the attack resulted in critical damage to Kyivstar's digital infrastructure.

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