News / Europe

Ukraine Says Communications Hit, MPs Phones Blocked

Reuters
Ukraine's telecommunications system has come under attack, with equipment installed in Russian-controlled Crimea used to interfere with the mobile phones of members of parliament, the head of Ukraine's SBU security service said on Tuesday.

Some Internet and telephone services were severed after Russian forces seized control of airfields and key installations in Ukraine's Crimea region on Friday, but now lawmakers were being targeted, Valentyn Nalivaichenko told a news briefing.

“I confirm that an ... attack is under way on mobile phones of members of Ukrainian parliament for the second day in row,” the security chief said at a news briefing.

“At the entrance to [telecoms firm] Ukrtelecom in Crimea, illegally and in violation of all commercial contracts, was installed equipment that blocks my phone as well as the phones of other deputies, regardless of their political affiliation,” he said.

Ukrtelecom already has said armed men raided its facilities in Crimea on Friday and tampered with fiber optic cables, causing outages of local telephone and Internet systems on the continent.

  • Ukrainian servicemen look on as an armed man, believed to be a Russian soldier, stands guard inside a Ukrainian military base in the Crimean town of Yevpatoria, March 5, 2014.
  • Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, march outside a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 5, 2014.
  • Ukrainian Navy soldiers raise their flag on top of the Ukrainian navy corvette Ternopil at the Crimean port of Sevastopol, March 5, 2014.
  • Russian soldiers fire warning shots at the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
  • A Russian soldier marches as he and comrades block the Ukrainian infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
  • Russian military armored personnel carriers drive from Sevastopol to Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
  • Ukrainian officers march at the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Ukraine, March 4, 2014.
  • Russian servicemen stand on duty near a map of the Crimea region near the city of Kerch, March 4, 2014.
  • U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry lays roses atop the Shrine of the Fallen in Kyiv, March 4, 2014.
  • A woman passes by Ukrainian recruits receiving military instructions in Kyiv's Independence Square, March 4, 2014.
  • Ukrainian recruits receive instructions from a commander in a recruitment self defense quarter at Kyiv's Independence Square, March 4, 2014.

The Ukrainian security chief did not say whether the new issues were linked to the earlier raid or a separate tampering incident. Ukrtelecom said it was working on a response to questions from Reuters about Nalivaichenko's remarks.

Russia's domestic intelligence service, the FSB, declined to comment when asked if Moscow was behind the communications disruptions in Ukraine.

The main Ukrainian government website www.kmu.gov.ua was offline for about 72 hours after Russian forces seized control of the peninsula, but went back up early on Monday, said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit.

Bumgarner, whose firm advises companies and government agencies on how to fend off cyber attacks, said, he is not sure the site went down as a result of a cyber attack. Still, he said he believes Moscow has the ability to cause major disruptions using cyber operations.

“I know they have the ability to do at least as much damage as they did in Estonia and Georgia,” he said.

Estonia suffered a 10-day attack on its Internet services in 2007, which caused major disruptions to its financial system, during a spat with Moscow over a Soviet-era war memorial, and Georgia was hit by mass cyber attacks during a brief 2008 war with Russia over its pro-Moscow South Ossetia region.

Russian authorities denied direct involvement in both attacks, saying they had no influence over the actions of self-styled patriotic hackers.

Is Russia holding back?

Much of Ukraine's telecommunications infrastructure was built when it was part of the Soviet Union, along with what is now the Russian Federation, and is particularly vulnerable to penetration by Moscow.

“The Russians have the place completely wired,” said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. foreign service officer and now senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“They are right next door and most traffic has to go through Russia. That they haven't done more probably reflects their confidence that they're going to come out ahead and there's nothing anyone can do about it,” Lewis said.

Cyber warfare experts say that while Russia certainly has the ability to conduct such campaigns against Ukraine, it has yet to need to use those capabilities.

“This would show the Russians acting with more discretion and targeting than recently,” said John Bassett, former head of the London and Washington stations of GCHQ, Britain's top secret government communications center.

“This wouldn't expose any great depth of their technological capability and they would be keeping the harder stuff back,” said Bassett, now associate at Oxford University's Cyber Security Center.

Marty Martin, a former senior operations officer with the CIA, said Moscow likely would only take action to damage Ukraine's Internet and internal communications systems if hostilities broke out.

“A lot of times you don't want to shut things down. If you do that, then you don't get your flow of intelligence. You are probably better off monitoring it,” Martin said.

Experts believe Russia was behind the hacking of a confidential phone conversation between senior U.S. State Department official Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, which was leaked over YouTube last month.

“Russia's strategy is control the narrative, discredit opponents, and coerce,” said Lewis.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs