Ukraine's security service has arrested a 'hacker', who they claim was aiding Russian troops who had invaded their western neighbour.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) have alleged the individual was routing phone calls on the troops' behalf because Ukrainian telecoms blocked access to Russian and Belarusian phone numbers.
SSU revealed in a statement that the alleged hacker also sent text messages to Ukrainian security forces suggesting they surrender and side with their Russian occupiers.
He is also believed to have passed on commands to advanced groups of Russian invaders, using the Ukrainian phone networks to facilitate Russian military communications.
The agency 'detained a hacker who provided the occupiers with mobile communications in Ukraine', the SSU wrote in messages on social media.
“With the help of this collaborator, the enemy: anonymously made phone calls from Russia to the mobile phones of the invaders in Ukraine; sent SMS messages to Ukrainian security officers and civil servants with proposals to surrender and side with the occupiers; passed commands and instructions to advanced groups of Russian invaders,” it added.
The SSU said it has now confiscated the alleged hacker's equipment and that he would be 'held accountable for all the severity of the law'.
The security agency noted that up to 1,000 calls had been facilitated in one day alone by the alleged hacker, including a large portion of calls which came from the Russian military’s 'top leadership'.
The SSU provided several photos of the man with his face censored, along with his equipment.
Ukrainian officials did not release his name or any other identifying information in their statement.
СБУ затримала хакера, який забезпечував окупантам мобільний зв’язок в Україні— СБ України (@ServiceSsu) March 15, 2022
Як встановила СБУ, за один день через цього хакера проходило до тисячі дзвінків. Значна частина з них – від вищого керівництва ворожої армії.
➡️ https://t.co/qKhKU9Ew4S pic.twitter.com/OBIolmv9qh
Analysts expected Russia to knock out Ukraine's telecommunications services, but according to one offical there is one very key reason invaders haven't done so.
“If [Russian forces] can do localised shutdowns of telecommunications, they’ll do it,” Director of the strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies James Lewis said.
“But in general, they’ll want to keep the phones working in Kyiv because they can listen in.”
CTO at cybersecurity firm AdaptiveMobile Cathal McDaid echoed this sentiment to Vice.
“I think it’s significant, it adds a bit of depth to the question as to why the Ukrainian mobile networks are still up—they still have some utility to Russian forces," she said.
But McDaid did say that the Ukraine's defensive measures have made it harder for Russian troops to communicate effectively.
Internet services were knocked out when Russia initially invaded neighbouring Ukraine, however tech billionaire Elon Musk saved the day by shipping Starlink terminals to the embattled country.
As Starlink connects via satellite, it is now nearly impossible for Russia to knock out Ukraine's internet access.
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information.
Featured Image Credit: Security Service of Ukraine