Phone relay pickup may be the latest Russian telecom problem in Ukraine

In the latest communications setback to hit the Russian military, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) claims to have arrested an intruder who was helping provide communications services to Russian forces inside Ukrainian territory, according to a Weiss report.

The SBU shared the details in a file tweet and a Telegram message at around 10am local time (4am ET), including images that allegedly show the hacker and his communications system, although the reports have not been independently confirmed.

According to the SBU’s Telegram, the hacker was helping to route calls from within Russia to the mobile phones of Russian forces in Ukraine, as well as sending text messages to Ukrainian security officers and civil servants proposing them to surrender.

The computer workstation of the alleged hacker who was said to support Russian forces in Ukraine.
Photo: Ukrainian Security Services via Twitter

Images shared by SBU claim to show the hardware and software used for these activities, and appear to be consistent with the paging system for voice and SMS communications.

at Tweet topic, Kathal MacDade, Chief Technology Officer, Adaptive Mobile Security, explained the hardware used and its importance. Mc Daid said the system consists of a SIM box server that can switch between 128 different SIM cards, paired with GSM gateways to connect voice and SMS calls to a local mobile network, and unknown software for handling messages and call forwarding.

McDade also said such systems are unreliable and should not be used for military communications.

SIM box and refundable devices.
Photo: Ukrainian Security Services via Twitter

The use of unsecured and civilian communications systems now appears on par with the trajectory of Russian forces operating in Ukraine. Since the invasion began, there have been numerous reports of Ukrainian security forces intercepting messages sent between Russian military units, an achievement made possible by the lack of encryption on Russian communications.

Early in the invasion, Russian forces reportedly reduced their ability to use encrypted cell phones by destroying local 3G and 4G towers, destroying the mobile data networks on which the phones depend. With the Russian military relying on unencrypted communications, Ukrainian intelligence services were able to intercept sensitive communications and in some cases broadcast them to the world – as happened with reports of the death of Russian General Vitaly Gerasimov.

Images of the conflict circulating on social media also indicated that in some cases Russian forces were using unencrypted portable radios for battlefield communications. The Russian Ministry of Defense previously indicated that it has issued encrypted tactical radios to the majority of Russia’s armed forces, but analysts at the Royal United Services Institute (a British defense and security research center) note that there are indications that the radios have been delivered. hampered by corruption.

The archaic and unmaintained nature of Russia’s communications equipment also appears to be reflected in the condition of much of the heavy equipment in use by the Russian military, even as forces embark on critical military operations such as the assault on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Reports from the Washington Post from the battlefield indicate that some Russian tank units operate Soviet-era T-72 vehicles, a model first produced over 50 years ago.

However, despite many technical and logistical gaps, the Russian forces are significantly outnumbering the Ukrainian military, showing no signs of reducing their offensive as the war enters a dangerous new phase.