Posts Tagged ‘communications’

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Kyivstar suffers massive TDoS attack

August 4, 2016

Over the past few days, the Kyivstar mobile telephone operator has been somewhat inconsistent – resulting in a rather peaceful few days for the blog.

Part of the reason for this is on-going is preparatory work for 4G throughout August, as the company forewarned.  It also forewarned of work in Odessa regarding new transmission equipment in July.

TDOS

However, on 3rd August Kyivstar was subjected to what it described as a massive TDoS attack, the outcome of which left Odessa completely without Kyivstar coverage.  At the time of writing, Kyivstar has yet to mitigate the TDoS attack by redirecting, scrubbing, and blocking offending source traffic.

TDoS attacks, no differently from DDoS attacks, do not simply happen.  They require a degree of either IT sophistication or manual coordination in order to overload a system.

As there is thus far no evidence to be found on the social networks organising mass participation in such a TDoS attack, and neither does there appear to be anything within the “dark net” – other than those advertising their abilities when it comes to DDOS and TDOS (many of which advertise in Russian) – it seems far more likely to be “bot” instigated.

There seems to be free VoIP and SIP software readily available capable of facilitating TDoS.  Which programmes are currently en vogue who knows – it used to be Asterisk, but technology surpasses the retarded knowledge of the blog so easily.

TDoS attacks are not particularly new across “eastern Europe” despite not getting the same attention that DDoS attacks do.  Likewise, on the “dark side” the (Russian language) advertisments offering DDOS and TDoS services are also not new either.

The question regarding this TDoS attack however is not the how, it is a question of motive.

Is it an attack aimed at criminal outcomes?  A matter of flooding the system to the degree it becomes impossible to cope with the amount of transactions going through the system, thus allowing for all manner nefariousness?

Perhaps it is simply a malicious tech nerd testing abilities to successfully carry out a TDOS attack?

Maybe somebody with sufficient ability who has a grudge against Kyivstar?  A disgruntled former customer?

Perhaps it is competitors in the marketplace keeping the system down long enough for customers to swap service providers, or sew the seeds of doubt in the reliability of the provider sufficiently to at least consider swapping?

Is it a Kremlin inspired attack, similar to the attack earlier in the year which hacked the Ukrainian power grid?  If so to what end?  To inflict commercial losses/damage upon a major Ukrainian company?  A “psyop” – or part of one – to remind the Ukrainians of Kremlin technological capabilities?  If so, a dangerous game, for the IT realm is one of the few in which Ukraine is quite capable of matching Russia.

Is it perhaps, unlikely as it seems, simply an excuse floated by Kyivstar for a technological fumble whilst carrying out its declared works?  Perhaps, but the Kyivstar signal did not disappear on the blog telephone, thus the issues seem related to the operating system rather than transmission.

What damage to the system, if any?

Rumour from reliable sources within Odessa state that the fibre optic cables of Kyivstar were deliberately severed – explaining no service in Odessa, rather than severely restricted service in other cities due to the TDoS.

Is this therefore a deliberate and coordinated attack on Kyivstar systems and “hard” infrastructure?  Are “pre-takeover” messages being sent the old fashioned way?  It seems unlikely.

Perhaps Kyivstar is capable of tracing and identifying the source of this TDoS attack – but if it is, will it publicly attribute the attack?

Maybe this is not as interesting as it appears prima facie, simply due to the fact that DDoS often gets the headlines whilst TDoS rarely does?

Whatever the case, this is not something that happens every day – so identifying the motivation is important.

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Vodafone & MTS Ukraine

October 17, 2015

During the hottest days of the summer, your author received an email from the Foreign Office.  Something that is not at all unusual it has to be said.  More often than not (although certainly not always) such emails relate to meetings with wandering attachés that have found, or will find themselves in Odessa, and an invitation to “chat”.

This email was one of the few that didn’t meet that criteria.  It was, at the time, of a confidential nature – because it said so.

Would your author meet with two executives from Vodafone in Odessa?

Thus some weeks following receipt of the email the meeting took place on a hot Tuesday evening.  The subject:  Vodafone, its existing relationship with MTS, and a proposal made by MTS Ukraine to rebrand.  The big question was whether it would be a good idea to allow MTS Ukraine to rebrand itself under Vodafone as it had porposed  – or not?

Unsurprisingly, and which was already widely known before this meeting, MTS Ukraine was seeking to distance itself from MTS in Russia – presumably for Ukrainian domestic consumption purposes.

However, there are a lot of questions to be asked and answered before getting anywhere near a final answer to the big question – and it is was the myriad of other questions and answers that would formulate a positive or negative outcome for MTS Ukraine as far as a Vodafone decision went.  It was for these questions your author’s answers were sought.  They were perhaps very pertinent questions considering the relationship development under discussion, which to many would seem the equivalent to being “half pregnant” as an eventual outcome in the event of a positive decision by Vodafone.

Several hours of discussion followed of which absolutely nothing will be repeated – confidentiality is confidentiality.

It was very clear that a great deal of due diligence had already been done.  It was also clear that the two executives were going to see a lot of people of influence whilst in Ukraine too, and would be asking some very pointed questions.  Vodafone at the time of our meeting were far from committed to accommodating the MTS Ukraine requests.

Whatever one may think of the Vodafone brand, the due diligence that was already evident, and the desire to dig far deeper “in country” was impressive.  Likewise the organisational abilities of the FCO in door-opening and meeting facilitation appeared seamless.

Vodafone

The outcome of it all is that on 16th October, Vodafone and MTS Ukraine announced what is being labeled as a “strategic partnership” under which MTS Ukraine will now sail onward under the Vodafone brand which will begin to appear over the next 3 months.

Thus now this decision has been made, and made public, the fact your author met confidentially with Vodafone executives several months ago is also no longer confidential – albeit the questions asked and the answers given will remain so.

Whatever the final contract may say, and no doubt the lawyers will have worked very carefully upon the devil in a deal such as this one, clearly there are some implications for MTS Ukraine, and Ukraine.

The risks and benefits for Vodafone are not really the subject of this entry – but it is important to touch upon a few issues that will effect MTS Ukraine, and the potential effect upon Ukraine more generally.

Naturally MTS Ukraine will become branded as Vodafone, and as such will hope to distance itself from MTS Russia by way of public perception – or perhaps by public deception depending upon your point of view and a limited ability to look a little deeper, or not.

There are undoubtedly major consequences for the corporate governance within what was MTS Ukraine but will now be branded Vodafone.

In order to use that branding, the Ukrainian company will have to adhere strictly to Vodafone corporate governance – which is to say more than a little stringent, with clear and unambiguous procedures for everything from interaction with journalists and holding press conferences, to relationships with security agencies, corruption (including the full weight of the UK Bribery Act), equal opportunity, grievance procedures, intellectual property rights et al.

In short, when assuming the Vodafone brand, then assume the Vodafone mandatory corporate governance which is unwavering in every nation where the Vodafone brand operates.  Not only will the Ukrainian entity be obliged to assume it, it will be expected to employ it and enforce it – or be prepared to lose the branding rights and also end up in a very expensive London court.  It is beyond doubt that any signed contracts will be extremely explicit over such matters.

It is here that the repercussions for Ukraine as a nation, and its economy, may resonate.

For many years, and has been mentioned in the blog on numerous occasions, intellectual property rights rank very highly within the US Embassy Kyiv when it comes to Ukrainian failures in the economic and legal spheres.  From a US point of view, Ukrainian failure to enforce and protect intellectual property rights is a major repressive factor that actively repels FDI and corporate entry.

Thus Vodafone having gone to great lengths with its due diligence (to the point of even talking to your author) and having allowed MTS Ukraine to rebrand as Vodafone therefore putting Vodafone intellectual property rights by way of its corporate branding (and all that entails) squarely into the Ukrainian fray, sends a particularly strong and positive message to the numerous US corporations that are in consistent contact with the US Embassy Kyiv.

Now it may be argued, as is clear from the official Vodafone statement, that Vodafone are putting little cash or hard assets at risk in Ukraine under this “strategic partnership” – at least so far – but for corporations like Vodafone risking cash and hard assets is usually deemed far less important than risking damage to “the brand” globally.

The internal reverberations of this rebranding/strategic partnership within the Ukrainian entity will be tangible and long felt amongst the corporate management.  That may also be true externally for any pre-existing agreements with the security services, with existing supply chains, with Government Ukraine and now also Government UK.

It may ultimately make only a little difference to end user experiences as far as 3G coverage, bundles and tariffs are concerned (at least for now), and it may fail entirely to separate the public association between MTS Russia and the new rebrand of what was MTS Ukraine, which was undoubtedly a major driver for the MTS Ukraine approach to Vodafone – but it seems fairly likely to change the perceptions of those outside Ukraine looking in, both by way of feeling able to impose “best practice” corporate governance upon existing Ukrainian entities, and also with regard to the timing of any market entry they may have been considering.

(It is necessary to point out that any benefits to Vodafone, – or not – have been deliberately ignored in this entry, for this is not a “telecoms blog”, nor a “big business blog” – it is a blog about Ukraine.)

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A return to the 3G tenders – Ukraine

February 18, 2015

In November 2014, an entry was published that highlighted the tendering for, and licensing of, 3G in Ukraine – the outcome of which is due on 23rd February.  It was identified as one of the litmus tests for foreign corporate investment into the country.

“As such, one of the very first public and international tests Ukraine will face will be the national G3 tender and licensing, due to take place in January 2015.

Quite simply – Ukraine has to get it right!

Whether Ukraine is aware of it or not – there is a lot of corporate and private FDI watching the G3 tender very closely indeed. In fact, it cannot be typed in bold or underlined heavily enough. There can be no cock-ups with the G3 tender and licensing by Ukraine.

If it gets it wrong, or it is thought to be even slightly “smelly”, it is one of the (early) indicators that will have a notable impact on corporate/private inward investment. It will certainly be a significant nail – although not the final nail – in the inward investment coffin for Ukraine.

If it goes as it should, however, from the discussion, there is quite clearly some solid and significant interest in Ukraine – despite the current situation in the east.

Naturally, not only the international/foreign national corporations/private investors are looking closely at the G3 tender – or it would not have been agreed as a significant event amongst those present from the various nations during the discussion with this blog. The western political and diplomatic classes are also looking for clear signs of a perfect execution of this tender and licensing too.

Ergo, dear readers, keep a very watchful eye upon the events surrounding the G3 tender and licensing – for it has far greater implications for Ukraine than any communications (and security) issue.”

In mid January, another entry was published listing those that had submitted tenders – Kyivstar, MTS Ukraine, Life (owned by Astelit) and UkrTower (owned by Turkcell).

All clear and transparent so far – a fairly content international corporate investment audience looking on.

The bids are as follows:

MTS Ukraine: Lot 1. UAH 2,708 billion.  Lot 2.  UAH 2,715 billion.  Lot 3.  UAH 2,705 billion.

Kyivstar:  Lot 1. UAH 2,705 billion.   Lot 2.  UAH 2,710 billion.   Lot 3. UAH 2,7 billion.

Life/Astelit:  Lot 1, 2 and 3 UAH 2,703 billion each.

All bids just over the starting value set by the government of UAH 2,7 billion – unsurprisingly when the license winners are to carry all conversion costs themselves, estimated at another UAH 1,6 billion.  All those successful are contractually obliged to have 3G in all major cities within 18 months, and within all towns with 10,000 or more inhabitants within 6 years of license issue.  Licenses are for 15 years.

So far so good – except there are issues that may now come to the fore with at least two of the bidders.

The first issue may be the existing Ukrainian law relating to sanctions in place against Russia.

The second is a proposed law by MP Anton Gerashchenko (who has some considerable weight,  both physically and metaphorically) to limit Russian ownership within security related spheres to 25% or less.  Communications being considered, rightly, as a security related sphere.  “I ask the NSDC consider setting limits owned by Russian entities and individuals (final beneficiaries) and persons affiliated with them shares that do not exceed 25% in aggregate in the share capital of companies in the field of transmission (storage, processing) of information data, mobile and satellite communications, navigation systems and telecommunications.”

According to him, limiting the share of Russian legal entities in the authorised capital of Ukrainian companies “guarantee information security of the country and close the flow of financial resources, which are displayed in the form of dividends to Russian beneficiaries.

Indeed.  With Russia having clearly, if unofficially, declared war by other means not only against Ukraine, but also the western world, why would it limit it to tanks and artillery, little green men, or energy politics?  Why would any sphere or interaction be off-limits?  Dependency, subterfuge, and/or influence is just that, regardless upon how it is achieved.

But where does this leave the bidders for the Ukrainian 3G tenders?

MTS Ukraine is a 100% owned subsidiary of MTS Russia.  Thus it is clearly ruled out should the goal posts be changed.  Indeed MTS Ukraine had a run in with the Ukrainian regulator in April 2014, when an unannounced inspection displayed cases of illegal data protection leaks, allegedly to the Russian security services amongst others.  Hardly a surprise to many.  The outcome was MTS kept its license, but was ordered not safeguard its data more carefully.

Kyivstar operates under the umbrella of an international holding company called Vimpelcom.  Vimpelcom has a shareholder with 47.9% of votes (indeed the largest shareholder) called Altimo.  Altimo is part of the Russian Alpha Group.  Perhaps a little more tricky and difficult to justify – or not?

This leaves Astelit.  This bidder is owned 55% by Turcell, Turkey’s largest mobile operator, and 45% by SCM, Rinat Akhmetov’s financial/industrial group.

The issues of Russia related security threats has not changed since the first 3G tender related entry here in November 2014.  The setting of parameters that relate to Russian percentage of ownership/control could have been set when tenders were invited – rather than now.  Should Mr Gerashchenko’s proposals fall upon sympathetic ears within the NSDC and/or the RADA, thus changing the tender goal posts now, (and the law), how will this be viewed by the international corporate investors?

Is there a need to change the law or tender parameters anyway?  Winners and losers are not decided upon by the value of bids alone – regardless of their necessary technical abilities to deliver.  If there are legitimate or justifiable reasons to prefer one bidder over another, then if those reasons are transparently communicated, that is the end of the matter.  What of “preferred bidders” or “The management retains the right to refuse”?

refuse

(That said, Monsanto is set to announce $200 million investments in grain storage and lifters very shortly within Ukraine.  A long way behind Chinese investments in similar infrastructure, industrial parks, fertilizer plants etc., which is now approaching $10 billion since 2011.)

The announcements due on 23rd February will send a signal – but what that signal will be, and how it will be received, remains unclear.

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Issues of communication – Ukraine

January 24, 2015

President Poroshenko has been the Ukrainian president for 8 months or so.  Enough time to watch a man under great stress communicate with the world and his people alike and have formed some opinion based on the empirical evidence produced.

In a far from academic way, the “Parent”, “Adult”, “Child” communication model will loosely form the basis of what is to be written.

PAC 1

 

As the international statesman, President Poroshenko has done a reasonable job of keeping Ukraine and the issues it is facing in the media – helped sadly by a number of headline-grabbing horrendous incidents along the way.  On a peer to peer basis he seems capable and comfortable.  Both necessary for a head of state, and particularly so when trying to drum up international political support, external financing and security assistance where ever it may be found.  Reasonably high marks.

However, when it comes to the Ukrainian constituency and domestic communication, President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatseniuk and Cabinet, are failing somewhat.  There is an imbalance between “Parent – Child” leadership and leadership rhetoric, and “Adult to Adult” communication and explanation on the domestic front.

As politicians, there is a natural default to the “Parent Ego” that proclaims to be both worldly and experienced, therefore speaking critically of anything that does not match their learned view of the world.  Alternatively, and sometimes simultaneous,  there is the caring, nurturing and protecting impulses of the “Parent Ego” in times of difficulty, challenge or set-back.

There is also, sadly, a good deal of post-Soviet (dreary and prolonged) monologue in evidence far too often.

It would be wrong to suggest that the Ukrainian leadership do not require to assume the “Parent Ego” of course.  Particularly when there are elements within Ukrainian society that have clearly adopted the emotional, occasionally irrational, and insubordinate elements of the “Child Ego”, not discounting those also too lazy to think for themselves and simply adopt/adapt themselves to the wishes of those around them – The “Sheeple”.

However, after the events of 2014, and what is going to be a very difficult and testing 2015 (and onward), what is missing from the political class in the quantity and quality needed to match the demands of swathes of Ukrainian society, is far more “Adult to Adult” communication.  Generally, this large section of the Ukrainian constituency behave rationally, looking for the best outcomes and try to find the most effective way to achieve it. They think things out, rather than repeat past lessons or acting purely on emotion.

It is the “Adult” section of the community that the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet will rely upon to maintain traction within the nation toward declared goals.  It is the “Adult constituency” they will rely upon to be resilient to Kremlin pressure and domestic political failings.  It is the “Adult” they will rely upon to poor oil upon turbulent domestic waters to maintain societal cohesion in times of great flux and mountainous challenges.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

Yet there is very little “Adult to Adult” communication from President, Prime Minister or Cabinet.  Whilst the challenges are clearly identifiable within the enormously inflated and endless rhetoric, there are no explanations as to the options available, why a specific option was chosen over another, how long solutions will take to appear, or when the effects of their implementation will be felt.

PAC 2

The Ukrainian “constituency Adult” is not stupid.  They are the millions of rational thinkers that search and arrive at solutions for reaching best possible outcomes.  They question policy, strategy, tactics and timeliness.  Indeed, the Ukrainian “constituency Adult” is far more democratically advanced and has progressed far further than the Ukrainian “political Adult” – to the point whereby the “constituency Adult” will now either drag the “political Adult” along with it – or eventually it will leave what currently constitutes the Ukrainian “political Adult” behind in fairly short order.

There is a noticeable lack of “Adult to Adult” conversation, and increasingly critically – explanation.

A growing requirement for the “political Adult” to engage in rhetoric-free, reality based conversations and explanations with the “constituency Adult” is clear.  The question is whether these conversations will occur before the “constituency Adult” takes on the role of “constituency Parent” forcing the “political Adult” to become “political Child” (again), or the “Adults” simply divorce.

The Ukrainian “political Adult” has a lot of catching up to do with the  Ukrainian “constituency Adult” – it will only be granted the time to do so via conversation and explanation.

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A 3G update – Ukraine

January 17, 2015

Following on somewhat nicely from yesterday’s Turkey-orientated entry, a return to a mid-November 2014 entry that was published relating to the anticipated 3G tender and licensing.  An entry that attempted to highlight just how critical to Ukraine a transparent tender and subsequent licensing will be, considering the number of large foreign international corporations looking closely at the processes and outcomes – regardless of having no interest in this particular tender.

Yesterday saw the passing of tender deadlines, with 4 tenders submitted.

According to the National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications, it has received tenders from the 3 best known mobile telephone operators in Ukraine; Kyivstar, MTS Ukraine and Life (owned by Astelit), as well as UkrTower, a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkish provider Turkcell.  Turkcell is also a major shareholder in Life/Astelit, together with Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM.

Fair enough.

What does stand out is the Turkcell/UkrTower bid, not only because it is a wholly owned Turkish operator, but because Turkcell/UkrTower is predominantly an infrastructure builder/operator.  The UkrTower/Turkcell bid making clear it would create an infrastructure that could be shared by all licensed Ukrainian operators – presumably at a cost.

Thus, tenders are closed with entirely, and partly owned foreign interest, together with that of domestic interest.  As stated in the entry published in November 2014:

“As such, one of the very first public and international tests Ukraine will face will be the national G3 tender and licensing, due to take place in January 2015.

Quite simply – Ukraine has to get it right!”

We will soon see if the entire process will go through transparently and without even a whiff of nefariousness.  The signals it will send are important.

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Speeding up bureaucracy in the Ukrainian Government? Get computers!

February 5, 2012

What year are we in?  Ah yes – 2012.

Aside from the huge amounts of completely unnecessary bureaucracy crammed into every orifice of Ukrainian life, one of the more frustrating factors is the fact that most of it takes place on paper.  A time delay multiplier of huge proportions when considering anything of any importance has to go through the bottleneck that is Kyiv.

Completed documents needing “registering” in some dank, dusty, dull administrative bunker somewhere in Kyiv, completely unchanged since Leonid Brezhnev last visited (other than Presidential portraits on the wall sporadically changing as years pass by)  can take more than a week to even reach Kyiv from the provinces and far flung regions of Ukraine.

Needless to say they can take yet another week to return, all too often with a note stating more, previously unknown and never before demanded documents are required.  It can take the best part of a year for a simple document to go through this process and be received fully signed, stamped, recorded and officially recongised both in Kyiv and the relevant local governmental body.

That is not to say there aren’t those new fangled computer thingys in every governmental, regional or local administrative office.  There are.  And they work.  I know they work as they all have up and running social chat systems in full flow when you walk in, be it ICQ, VKontake, MSN, Yahoo, Facebook, twitter or any other I may have missed.

You are often faced with an annoyed look from a disgruntled employee who must leave their chat conversation to deal with you and hand you a small, pulped, flattened and pre-printed  rain forest for manual completion.

Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I read that the RADA, governmental ministries and departments are going computerised!  Not only is it the intention to remove paper and the slow dissemination by way of drivers delivering bundles of paper around different premises in Kyiv, Ukraine has past the point of thinking about it and are actively testing the system prior to full implementation!

Of course I am not sure that this move has anything to do with efficiency (by way of speed) per se, it may well be a way to simply cut the wage and pension bill in the long term by laying off the drivers who trundle around delivering tonnes and tonnes of paper between departments and ministries each year.

It may also mean redundancy for those permanently employed to shred anything  that will compromise any politician and an end to part-time shredders on stand-by when governments and presidents change as results of elections begin to become clear.  All incriminating evidence must be shredded, lost, burnt, misfiled etc in a short space of time in such circumstances obviously.

All nefarious deals encrypted on their very own black intranet – Sounds good!

The question is, will this computerisation nonsense really catch on?  If so, is there a possibility it will be “rolled out” and the provinces and regions be able to “register” documents in Kyiv at the touch of a button with the unique reference numbers necessary?  Would such devolving of power to local governance be allowed?

Also, is it possible to look authoritative and ministerial without a huge bundle of paper under your arm everywhere you go?  What about “image”?  Public perception is a necessary evil when in the public eye and it is necessary to look officious, academic and over-worked.  Can you really do that as a Ukrainian politician or high ranking State official without bundles of paper under your arm, or holding the system to ransom because currently only you can allocate a “registration number”?

Would Ukraine feel the same if the bureaucracy and administration went computerised?  After all Ukraine has never been  a black and white binary nation.  It has always worked in many shades of nefarious grey.

Should there be a grass roots campaign to keep all administrative State computers solely for social media enjoyment of government employees?

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