Satellite Outage: Cyber Hit Shakes Up Russian Military Communication

Estimated read time 3 min read

Hey folks, something big went down in the digital battlefield. The Russian military’s satellite communication system went AWOL late Wednesday due to a cyberattack. Reminds us of Ukraine’s ordeal at the start of the war, doesn’t it?

Outage on Dozor-Teleport

It’s the Dozor-Teleport system we’re talking about here, and it was still mostly offline as of Thursday. To manage the chaos, Dozor switched some users to terrestrial networks.

One network was even taken over by Amtel-Svyaz, the parent company of Dozor, according to Doug Madory of Kentik. But, what’s troubling is, three others are still down for the count.

ASN being down | Picture via @vx_herm1t
ASN being down | Picture via @vx_herm1t

Attack Claimed, Culprits Mysterious

So, who’s behind this? Two groups have popped up claiming responsibility. One calls itself a hacktivist organization. The other? Part of the Wagner Group. Yes, the same mercenaries that shook things up last week marching towards Moscow.

These folks allege they sent malicious software to the satellite terminals, causing a frenzy among us cybersecurity pros to snag a terminal for testing.

Wagner or Hacktivists?

This isn’t the first time hacktivists have targeted Russian and Ukrainian websites and infrastructure since the war began. But, is it all as it seems? Sometimes, they’re just cover for military forces.

The connection to the Wagner Group could be a decoy to stir up more turmoil in Russia. But, if it’s legit, it means that the mutiny may extend into the digital space too.

The Impact

Although the satellite arm of the company might not be a big player in terms of revenue ($10 million per year), its clientele includes the Russian military and federal services. According to JD Work, it’s even got Russian soldiers in Ukraine as customers.

The real punch depends on how long the system stays down and the alternate communication channels the clients have at their disposal. Satellite comms usually serve as backups, but for moving military units, it’s often the lifeline.

Is it Crippling?

Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation doesn’t think it’s crippling. But, for customers solely reliant on this connectivity, it’s a different story. Remember how Ukraine intercepted Russian soldiers’ communications when they ditched satellite service?

Rare Satellite Hacks

Satellite hacks are rare beasts. You don’t hear about them often. Remember the Viasat service hack used by the Ukrainian military in February 2022? It’s regarded as one of the war’s most successful hacking endeavors. SpaceX’s Starlink then became the go-to service in Ukraine, weathering multiple hack attempts since.

The Viasat hack was pinned on Russia’s military intelligence, the GRU. Could it be that Wagner mercenaries have been taking notes, learning enough to turn these techniques against Russia’s Dozor? If true, the aftermath of the mutiny just got more digitally complicated.

The U.S. military isn’t talking about it and it’s still not crystal clear who’s behind this latest assault. As always, we’ll keep our ears to the ground and let you know as soon as we learn more.

Sources used:

Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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