Publicly announcing an offensive cyber operation is highly unusual, but Ukraine took this unprecedented step. Ukrainian intelligence confirmed a successful hack into Russia’s civil aviation department.
According to Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence report published on the official website, the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine conducted a Russian civil aviation cyberattack.
Subsequently, the intelligence agency reported securing a significant volume of confidential documents from Rosaviatsia, a subdivision of the Russian Ministry of Transport. This acquisition followed a successful and intricate cyberspace operation.
Russian Civil Aviation Cyberattack
Following a successful complex special operation in cyberspace, the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced that it had gotten a significant amount of classified papers from Rosaviatsiya, the Federal Air Transport Agency of Russia.
The press release stated, “The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine informs that as a result of a successful complex special operation in cyberspace, a large volume of confidential documents of the structural subdivision of the Russian Ministry of Transport – the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) – is now acquired.”
The aforementioned organization is in charge of flight safety and keeps track of any emergency that occurs when a Russian aircraft is in operation.
“Above mentioned agency is responsible for flight safety and records all cases of emergency during operation of Russian aviation,” the statement further read.
According to Ukrainian intelligence, the agency’s information systems were breached, and it obtained Rosaviatsiya’s daily reports for over one and a half years.
The press release further stated, “The data obtained as a result of hacking and penetration of enemy information systems includes a list of daily reports of Rosaviatsiya for the entire Russian Federation for more than a year and a half.”
Details Exposed from Russian Civil Aviation Hack
The details of data exposed from the Russian civil aviation cyberattack are directed towards proving that the civil aviation sector of what Ukraine calls “terrorist Russia” is close to collapsing.
Here are the key-points from the exposed data.

There were 185 accidents reported in Russian civil aviation just in January 2023. A third or so of them were categorized as occurrences with different degrees of risk. The “dry superjet”—a Russian short-haul aircraft—led the way with 34 emergency cases.
150 cases of aircraft faults were reported in Russia in the first nine months of 2023. Fifty of these instances were noted within the same time frame in 2022. This implies that flying in Russia now poses a threefold increased risk to safety.
In Russian aviation, the most crucial components are still engines and landing gear, together with other crucial parts like hydraulic systems, flaps, and software.
Russia, the aggressor state, will have a difficult time keeping its heavily logged planes. Moscow is attempting to shift airplane maintenance to Iran, where the necessary work is done “handicraft” – without the necessary certification – due to a lack of expertise and capacity.
By March 2022, Russia possessed roughly 820 civilian aircraft manufactured abroad. Furthermore, nearly 70% of the fleet has undergone “service” involving non-authentic spare parts, but only 10% of them had experienced such “service” at the time.
In Russia, there is a phenomenon known as “aviation cannibalism” when airplanes are disassembled in order to fix others due to a severe lack of spare parts. Based on the information at hand, almost 35 percent of Russia’s aircraft were “donated” by the middle of 2023.
Due to sanctions, the majority of Soviet An-2 aircraft are currently unable to take off because their engines were produced in Poland but are no longer available for purchase.
There were 19 distinct failures among the 220 Airbus aircraft in Russia in January 2023 alone. Specifically, nine of Aeroflot’s aircraft had 17 incidences of smoke reported.
Out of the 230 Boeing airplanes that are operated in Russia, 33 technical failures of various aircraft systems have been documented.
There are 21 Brazilian Embraers in the Russian fleet, and every seventh of them failed to resist the conditions of operation in Russia.

What Do We Understand From the Russian Civil Aviation Cyberattack
State-sponsored cyberattacks aren’t novel, but the distinct aspect here is the state’s overt acknowledgment of the attack. The Ukraine-led Russian civil aviation cyberattack prompts questions about ethical conduct.
This also raises questions about the country’s intentions behind such acknowledgment: Is it an attempt to showcase its cyber capabilities or underscore the vulnerability of the adversary?
However, such trends can yield grave consequences in the future. Governments may increasingly feel emboldened to engage in cybercrime, leading to escalating and increasingly devastating outcomes.
Moreover, this unprecedented acknowledgment of a nation conducting a cyberattack on an adversary’s intelligence agency might signify frustration, perhaps stemming from the exposure of gathered information. This frustration could be attributed to the substantial losses Ukraine has sustained amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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