Ukraine Hacks Russia’s Aviation Agency, Claims “Aviation Cannibalism”

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Amid the hack, the Ukrainian agency claims that as per the documents, Russia’s aviation is collapsing given the international sanctions imposed on the country after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

It is rare for nations to admit hacking or surveilling activities against other nations. However, in a rather unexpected act, the Ukrainian government has admitted to carrying out an offensive cyber operation against Russia.

In a press release, Ukraine’s intelligence agency referred to the hacking as a “successful complex special operation in cyberspace.” 

According to the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, through this operation, they obtained a vast trove of classified documents from Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsiya.

For your information, Rosaviatsiya manages flight safety and is responsible for maintaining Russian aviation’s emergency incidents records. The Ukrainian defence ministry claims that it infiltrated Rosaviatsiya’s information systems and repeatedly accessed its daily reports for over a year and a half.

The Ukrainian agency claims that as per the documents, Russia’s aviation is collapsing given the international sanctions imposed on the country after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Some of the documents state that in January 2023, around 185 incidents were reported in Russian civil aviation and one-third of them were declared dangerous.

In the first nine months of 2023, 150 aircraft malfunctioning cases were recorded compared to 50 incidents during the same period in 2022. This indicates the intensity of safety hazards Russian aviation has been recording lately as the number has tripled, claimed the agency.

That’s not all. Russia is also experiencing issues with aircraft maintenance because spare parts are hard to outsource due to sanctions. Now the country is redirecting aircraft maintenance to Iran where such works are carried out without appropriate certification. This shortage of aircraft space parts has created “aviation cannibalism,” in Russia, which means it is dismantling aircraft to repair others.

“Moscow is trying to hide the endless pile of problems with civil aviation, endangering its residents,” Ukrainian sources concluded.

When the hacking was conducted is still unclear. Rosaviatsia is yet to respond to the revelations. It is worth noting that this is the first time that Ukraine has admitted to conducting a cyber operation against a Russian target.

It is unusual for states to proudly publicize their digital attacks against their adversaries, in Ukraine’s case it is understandable. This breach is a significant blow to Russia’s aviation industry and raises concerns about its civilian airspace’s security. The stolen documents can expose vulnerabilities in the country’s air traffic control systems and offer valuable information to Ukraine.

The hacking’s timing is crucial since it comes at a time when tensions between Russia and Ukraine are at their peak.

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