Note: This was originally published as the daily newsletter for the Columbia Journalism Review, where I am the chief digital writer
As soldiers and civilians in Ukraine continue to resist an invasion by Russian troops. a very different kind of war is being fought on a separate front: namely, the internet. Within hours of Russian troops attacking cities and government facilities in Ukraine, hackers—including some who claimed to be affiliated with the underground group known as Anonymous—went after a number of Russian government sites and systems. Some of these cyber-attacks appeared to be designed just to cause annoyance, while others were aimed at shutting down the Russian government’s operational abilities, or revealing what military intelligence officials in Russia might know. Along with the hacking of computer systems, the battle has also seen attempts by Russia to hack information networks, by using propaganda and misinformation on social and traditional media.
Some of the cyber-hacking attempts are from random vigilantes trying to have some impact on the broader conflict, but some were invited by the Ukrainian government itself. Messages started to appear on a variety of hacker forums starting Thursday morning asking for volunteers to protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber missions against Russia, according to a report from Reuters. “Ukrainian cybercommunity! It’s time to get involved in the cyber defense of our country,” the posts read, asking hackers to apply via Google docs. Yegor Aushev, co-founder of a cybersecurity company in Kyiv, told Reuters he was asked to write the post by a senior Defense Ministry official.
Groups of pro-Ukrainian hackers have also come together to launch a variety of attacks on Russian infrastructure and command-and-control systems, Politico reported. And a group of “hacktivists” based in Belarus who are opposed to Russia’s invasion, known as the Belarusian Cyber Partisans, said they have created a tactical organization to help Ukraine’s military fight against Russia. The group claimed in January that it had encrypted parts of the computer systems used by the state railway in Belarus, in an attempt to slow down the movement of troops by rail, since the government in Belarus is friendly towards Russia and attacks on Ukraine might begin there (which they did).Continue reading “Ukraine, Russia, hacking, and misinformation”