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Russian Space Chief Flip-Flops on Satellite Hack

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin during a flight to the Vostochny cosmodrome, Amur region, September 4, 2021. (Ilya Filatov/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).
Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitry Rogozin

director general of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency

“Taking the satellite group of any country offline is actually a casus belli, a reason for war.”


On March 2, Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, said the hacking of the country’s communication satellites was “a reason for war.”

The comment came after the vigilante hacker collective Anonymous claimed on March 1 that its affiliate NB65 had “shut down the Control Center of the Russian Space Agency ‘Roscosmos’.” The hack allegedly breached the system that allows Russia’s to control its spy satellites.

Rogozin responded with an array of false and misleading statements, initially denying that satellite controls were hit.

“The information from these scammers and petty crooks is not true. All of our space activity control centers are operating normally,” Rogozin said.

However, on March 2, Rogozin admitted that Roscosmos’ “infrastructure” had been breached, but insisted it affected only a system for “testing of various civil technical solutions in the field of urban transport” and did not affect Roscosmos’ “spacecraft control systems.”

“Apparently, Ukrainian hackers are engaged in fraud and false claims in reports to their overseas sponsors,” Rogozin posted on his Telegram channel, adding that “the attack was detected automatically in a timely manner and stopped.”

Rogozin also posted an internet address he said was an open database from which the public could monitor the updates and functions of Russia’s satellite systems.

He said the data showed his agency was operating normally, and that its work has not been interrupted by hacking. But the source link Rogozin provided leads to an error page.

The official Roscosmos website was offline as of this writing. It displayed a cartoon of astronauts in space and a quote by the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin: “Flying around in the satellite ship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People will store and multiply this beauty and not destroy it!”

The U.S.-based Homeland Security news site, which describes itself as an independent media outlet focused on intelligence and security topics, reported that hackers affiliated with Anonymous have breached more than 1,500 websites belonging to the Russian government and state media.

On March 2, the Interfax news agency quoted Rogozin as saying: “Taking the satellite group of any country offline is actually a casus belli, a reason for war.”

Of course, Russia had already attacked Ukraine six days earlier and had been building up arms and troops along Ukraine’s borders months before.

On February 24, the day Putin announced the invasion, Ukraine’s government “asked for volunteers from the country's hacker underground to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber spying missions against Russian troops,” Reuters reported.

Anonymous responded immediately, saying it was “officially in cyber war against the Russian government.”

Participants in an March 2 online discussion on Twitter hosted by Bloomberg News described Anonymous’ members as “hacktivists” and “cyber partisans.”

Belarusian cyber activist Yuliana Shemetovets said in the discussion that “[t]he Belarusian cyber partisans are focused on fighting the dictator Aleksander Lukashenko, but now, with the war going on, they also help the Ukrainians in gathering information about the Russian troops' locations and movements.”

Anonymous first emerged in 2003 as an anarchist hacker group. In the years that followed, its groups surfaced during major wars and crises, usually positioning themselves as vigilantes fighting for the right cause. Cyber experts say the influence of Anonymous was most significant during the Arab Spring and the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.

Concern is high that the ground war in Ukraine could spread to cyberspace after Western countries moved to ban Russia from international banking and financial payment systems, among other sanctions.

“The likelihood of a cyberattack on our payments system is high,” Scott Minderd of the investment firm Guggenheim Partners told Bloomberg News on March 1. “If they cripple the payments system, it’s going to seize up markets.”

Earlier in February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that “every organization in the United States is at risk from cyber threats” from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. previously reported on Putin’s false claim that the “Kyiv regime” had committed “genocide” and that the goal of the invasion was “to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.”