Ukraine says communications hit

Ukraine says communications hit

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

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

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

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