The Great Euro Sat Hack Should Be A Warning To Us All

Military officials and civilian security researchers have been warning us for years: cyberattacks are becoming a very real part of modern warfare. Far from being limited to military targets, cyberattacks can take out everything from vital public infrastructure to commercial and industrial operations, too.

In the early hours of February 24, as the Russian invasion force began raining missiles on Ukrainian cities, another attack was in progress in the digital realm. Suddenly, satellite terminals across Europe were going offline, with many suffering permanent damage from the attack.

Details remain hazy, but researchers and military analysts have pieced together a picture of what happened that night. The Great Euro Sat Hack prove to be the latest example of how vulnerable our digital infrastructure can be in wartime.

A Network Is Only As Secure As Its Weakest Point

The KA-SAT satellite operated owned by US company Viasat was launched in 2010. It’s charged with providing broadband satellite internet across Europe, with some limited coverage also extending to parts of the Middle East. Customers of the service include residential users across Europe, and many industrial systems as well.

5,800 wind turbines lost their satellite data connections during the attack, compromising remote monitoring of the hardware. Service was restored through a combination of replacing affected satellite modems and installing supplementary cellular/LTE data links. Credit: ENERCON press site

On February 24, when Russian forces began their full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the KA-SAT system similarly came under attack. Thousands of terminals suddenly went offline in the early hours of the morning. Far from being limited to just Ukraine, users in Greece, Poland, Italy, Hungary, and Germany were all affected.

Notably, 5,800 wind turbines in Germany had their administration systems go dark as the attack raged. When the satellite links went down, monitoring the wind turbines via SCADA systems was no longer possible. Thankfully, grid stability was not affected according to operator ENERCON, as grid operators maintained control over the wind power input to the grid via other methods.

Early reports