Russian hackers could’ve gained access to Ukraine’s communication systems as of Jan. 25, and network providers in Ukraine should review the backup systems and vet personnel with back-end access to mitigate the risks, warned Kyiv officials.

The State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine said the recent cyberattacks, conducted by Russian intelligence and hacker groups affiliated with the agencies, had the intention to “disrupt the stable functioning of electronic communication systems” that support Ukraine’s national security and defense.

It added that as of Jan. 25, Russian hackers could’ve been “present” in the communication system without providing further details.

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This was stated in an official letter sent to various tech associations in Ukraine, including the Ukrainian Internet Association that shared the letter.

The letter listed several recommendations to counter the threats, including the backup of data systems and vetting system administrators with access to the system’s back end.

“In particular, it is necessary to check the availability and operability of backup data storage systems, verify accounts on firewalls and switching equipment, as well as take additional security measures, namely, checking the personnel who are directly responsible for the administration of electronic communication systems,” it said.

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The letter also cited an “intensification of destructive activities aimed at destroying infrastructure in the electronic communications sector” and “increasing DDoS attacks on banks” as observed in recent cyberattacks.

The latter likely referred to the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack targeting Ukraine’s Monobank in late January, which the company said was its largest cyberattack to date with 580 million service requests trying to overwhelm its system.

It is also believed that Russian hackers gained backdoor access to Kyivstar’s system in the December attack that dealt extensive damage to Ukraine’s largest telecommunications company.

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During the attack, a massive amount of data was wiped out from Kyivstar’s servers and the telecommunications provider was rendered inoperative for days. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) believed hacker groups gained access to the system as early as May 2023, a claim that was denied by a Kyivstar spokesperson.

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