Viasat Modems Might Have Been Wiped by Malware

  • By Patrick Ryan
  • Apr 04, 2022

A new form of malware dubbed “AcidRain” might be responsible for the wiping of Viasat modems. Though the company has not confirmed that the AcidRain malware is the underlying cause of the compromised modems, its representatives have indicated that the malware is likely responsible for the breach.

What Type of Damage Did the Attack Cause?

Though there is still the potential for Viasat’s executives to change their tune, they are currently indicating AcidRain malware with code similar to VPNFilter malware from Russia is likely responsible for the attack.  

The malware disrupted thousands of Viasat modems. The compromised modems are those used by consumers. The broadband modems were attacked the same day that Russia first waged war on Ukraine. It appears the digital attack included wiper malware. The attack’s binary was first implemented on March 15. The binary, stemming from Italy, was uploaded to VirusTotal with a “ukdrop” moniker. The file name is a reference to the military operation in Ukraine. All in all, about 30,000 broadband consumer modems were compromised.

The wiper overwrote important data within the modem flash memory, ultimately making it useless and spurring the need for replacement or re-flashing. As a result, Viasat modems targeted in the attack could not connect to the web. Specific commands were transmitted directly to the modems to render them nonfunctional. Viasat representatives have stated the attack did not result in access to end-user information or the compromising of that information.

Where Did the Attack Stem From?

It appears the attack might have come from Italy and/or Russia. The attack affected modems in central Europe as well as Ukraine.  

Which Specific Modems Were Targeted?

The modems involved in the attack were those of a Viasat business partner. Branded with the corporate name of “Tooway,” the modems are distributed through Skylogic, a company based in Italy. Skylogic is a business owned by Eutelsat, a satellite operator based in France.

When Did the Attack Commence?

The modem outage was first noticed on February 24, 2022. This date is important as it coincides with the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

What is AcidRain Malware all About?

AcidRain malware is best described as an executable within Linux MIPS ELF that conducts a deep wiping of storage device file systems. The malware conducts a recursive overwrite when code runs in the form of a root, eliminating all files within the filesystem that are non-standard.  

It must be noted that at this time, there is no concrete evidence that proves the Viasat modem outage is the result of AcidRain malware. However, it appears that the digital miscreants behind the attack obtained access to the management console of the network provider to execute supply-chain attacks featuring a wiper that zeroed in on Viasat’s modems. The attack also targeted routers. Viasat representatives have also gone out of their way to contradict the suggestion of SentinelLabs, stating that there was not an attack on the supply chain, nor was there even the slightest supply chain vulnerability.

How is Viasat Responding to the Attack?

Viasat has reached out to Mandiant to conduct an incident investigation and response. Viasat has also worked with the cybersecurity agencies of several governments along with law enforcement authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation. A spokeswoman for Viasat stated the company would provide cyber forensics information at the culmination of the investigation. Viasat has also issued security updates for its modems.

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