The Russia & Ukraine War Shifts Digital through Ukraine’s “IT Army”

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With the mass influx of cyberattacks and hackers from Russia towards Ukraine’s powerful digital services and infrastructure, the country has generated what is known as an “IT Army” in order to strengthen their cybersecurity. 

As a way to heighten their attacks towards Ukraine, Russia took  the battlefield online through initiating multiple distributed denial of service, or DDos strikes. These attacks were generated by Russia’s military intelligence agency called GRU, and were aimed towards the country’s online defense as well as banking systems. Many of these DDos were launched by using Danabot, a malware-as-a-service program that targets Ukraine’s online defense systems. In addition, according to Check Point, Ukraine has been facing a shocking 116% increase in cyberattacks  from China’s NATO networks compared to before Russia’s invasion. 

In response to these digital threats, Ukraine has formulated what could be viewed as an “IT Army” in order to protect their online infrastructure and defense systems from Russian hands. Indeed, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov said in a tweet “We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents[…]There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists”. 

Ukraine’s “IT Army” could be the largest defense mechanism a country has undergone in order to fend off digital assaults. . How it works is that important targets are posted to a Telegram channel with thousands of followers. Ukrainian groups then use the information provided to set fire strikes against these targets. As a result, many of Russia’s banks as well as power supply and railway systems have gone under fire. Not only that, Ukrainian radicals have seemed to target Aerospace which is the aircraft manufacturing industry of Russia, by using DDos to attack its website. 

With the rise of the newfound military ground, a group that goes by the name of “Anonymous” has surfaced to declare their war against Russia. Indeed, the group of decentralized hackers have taken the concept of war to new levels. Anonymous have managed to infiltrate numerous Russian television broadcasting systems including Moscow 24, Channel 1, Russia 24, as well as streaming services such as Ivi and Wink. However, the most shocking action the hacktivists have committed was the breaching of Roskomnadzor, the Russian monitoring and censoring agency.  What they managed to leak was 360,000 files; one in specific guided Russian on how to refer to Ukraine’s invasion.

Ukraine’s online efforts to fight Russia have not gone unnoticed by supporters. In fact, thousands of people have demonstrated their support for the country by providing 31 websites of Russian targets. Many of these sites include banks, energy sources, vital infrastructure, government programs, as well as Russia’s search engine and email provider, Yandex. 

As the digital war continues to surge on, many are faced with the question of morals and ethics when dealing with Ukraine’s “IT Army”. Should civilians take hacking Russian governments systems into their own hands or should it be simply left to Ukrainian forces? Moreover, is what these citizens are doing even legal? What is safe to say is that the Russia and Ukraine’s digital battle is enough to make  other countries recognize the vitality of a strong, functional cybersecurity system. In this age of digital advancement, there is no telling what is possible and what isn’t.

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