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SBU: Russian forces used cyberattack to target Ukraine's 128th brigade

by Rachel Amran and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 4, 2024 6:53 PM 2 min read
Military personnel stay in a dugout as the artillery unit of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade serves in the Zaporizhzhia direction, southeastern Ukraine, on Aug. 11, 2023. (Ukrinform/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on April 4 that it uncovered evidence that Russian forces were able to hack into the devices of military personnel in order to guide a missile to strike the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, killing at least 19 Ukrainian soldiers, in November last year.  

Members of the 128th brigade were gathered for an award ceremony in honor of Artillery Day on Nov. 3, 2023, in the front-line zone of Zaporizhzhia Oblast when a Russian Iskander-M missile struck the group. The Brigade later confirmed that 19 of its soldiers had been killed in the attack.

A preliminary investigation found that reports of Russian reconnaissance drones operating in the area, including an air alert, were ignored. In addition, the soldiers were gathered in the yard of a house, with 10 cars parked outside, which was plainly visible from above.

In the weeks following the attack, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that "all rules of disguise were ignored."

President Zelensky promised to implement changes in the armed forces to address negligence, Soviet-era practices, and bureaucracy.

SBU cybersecurity chief Illia Vitiuk said in an interview on April 4 that Russian soldiers send phishing messages to hack the messenger applications of specific military personnel. When they managed to "crack" the device, they got access to messengers and computers through mail.

According to the SBU official, the investigation found that one of the devices on which the Signal messenger was installed received a message about the specific date and place of the formation of servicemen. The Russian missile later struck this exact location.  

Vitiuk also announced that up to 30 soldiers had been killed in the attack, despite official reports that only 19 service members died.

Washington Post: Russia conducts disinformation campaign to undermine Zelensky
The materials have also revealed the Kremlin’s frustration with the lack of success, as opinion polls show that the Ukrainian society remains united and supportive of the leadership amid the ongoing full-scale war with Russia.
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