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Thousands in France lose internet in suspected Russian cyberattack

The ‘cyber event’ was targeted at global company Viasat, which supplies around 10,000 customers in France through Nordnet

People in France have been affected by a ‘cyber event’ believed to be of Russian origin Pic: i am Em / Shutterstock

[Article updated March 4 at 15:05]

Around 10,000 people in France have been affected by a ‘cyber event’ believed to be of Russian origin which happened shortly after the Ukraine war began, it has been revealed.

Soon after Vladimir Putin launched a military assault on Ukraine last Thursday (February 24), the global high-speed satellite broadband Viasat was hit by a cyberattack. 

Viasat only reported the issues it was experiencing this week.

The attack has affected the internet connection of tens of thousands of customers in Ukraine, but also in France, where Viasat’s satellite services are sold through Nordnet.

“Such an attack is comparable to an act of war in our territory,” one internet expert told Le Figaro. “We do not know that a ‘cyber-blast’ – a massive attack with such a huge impact on people on the ground – was possible.”

As a result of the incident, it is currently impossible to restart affected modems, or to carry out a factory reset.

Providers connected to Viasat will also struggle to replace the devices, due to a current global shortage of the required materials, including electronic chips.

Problem reported with SkyDSL broadband

A Connexion reader has also been in contact to report that she has been having problems with her SkyDSL broadband for the past week. 

Viasat owns the KA-SAT satellite, which provides SkyDSL with its broadband connection. However, a SkyDSL spokesperson told The Connexion that "There is currently no technical disruption in the SkyDSL service."

We also contacted Viasat for an update on the situation. In a statement released earlier this week the company said: “Our investigation into the outage continues, but so far we believe it was caused by a cyber event.”

It added that there was “no indication” that customer data has been breached.

A spokesperson told The Connexion that: "At this time, we have an understanding of the situation regarding the partial outage of the KA-SAT European network.

"We remain focused on stabilizing the network and restoring service using multiple technical pathways. We are outlining a comprehensive plan, in coordination with our European distributors, to bring their end-customers online as quickly as possible through a variety of delivery actions."

Nordnet has also issued a statement saying: “We are in constant contact with Viasat to ensure that service is restored as quickly and safely as possible for users. 

“Nordnet makes every effort to respond and support its customers and apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

Submarine cables

Another cybersecurity threat which is currently weighing on Europe is that of potential damage to its submarine internet cables, which ensure more than 90% of international connections.

If the cables running between Europe and the US were damaged, the economic consequences would be significant.

During the invasion of Crimea in 2014, Russian forces were suspected of damaging such cables.

Related stories 

Ukraine war has rocked the balance of our continent, says Macron

Coming days will be harder, Macron tells France in Ukraine speech

Cyberattack risk, protests, military aid: Six France-Ukraine updates

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