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Warfare in the Digital Age

by | Mar 10, 2022

                The tragic invasion of Ukraine in these past few weeks is shaping up to be much different than any other invasion the world has yet seen. The digital age that we are now in has enabled people all over the world to join in on war efforts without even having to cross the Ukrainian border. President Zelensky of Ukraine has publicly called upon everyone around the world to join Ukraine’s cyber army to fight the Russian invasion. The two purposes of this cyber army are to protect Ukrainian Infrastructure from being hacked and to attack Russia by hacking anything that can thwart Putin’s invasion efforts. This is the first time a president of a country has publicly called upon the whole world to assist in cyberwar efforts.

                Support for Ukraine around the world has been strong thus far. Many are answering Zelensky’s call.  The notorious hacker group Anonymous has joined the fray and is already inflicting significant damage on Russia. The group has claimed responsibility for hacking Russian government websites and media outlets and even stealing sensitive military data, (200GB of emails) from the Russian Department of Defense and making it public for the world to see. This could help to stop Putin since many things on the internet are largely censored in Russia, so the leak could possibly help Russians get a better idea of what Putin is doing. But history has yet to determine how effective these attacks were and there are probably more on the way.

                However, it isn’t just big hacker groups that are answering Zelensky’s call. Mykhailo Fedorov, president Zelensky’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation has been particularly effective in calling upon powerful people and groups to join the fight. He directly called out Tesla Boss Elon Musk on Twitter saying, “While you try to colonize Mars Russia try to occupy Ukraine!” The tweet immediately generated 200,000 likes and retweets prompting Musk to quickly respond.  Musk’s Starlink satellites were realigned to grant internet access to Ukrainians who previously had it knocked out by Russian hackers. Fedorov later tweeted “Starlink service now active in Ukraine. Thanks, @Elon Musk” This is an important development to the situation given that many people feared Ukraine’s internet access would be cut off by the Russians leaving them even more vulnerable to attack.

                But it’s not just Musk that has been called out. Fedorov has been firing on all cylinders on Twitter calling upon tech giants to do something about the Ukraine situation and other big companies have been swift to respond. For instance, Fedorov publicly tweeted at YouTube and Google to de-platform Russian state media, even going as far as telling them to block their main YouTube channel, Russia24. YouTube and Google have responded by shutting down access to Russian state media across the European Union. Further, Facebook and Twitter have blocked advertising for Russian businesses in response to Fedorov tweeting at them to do something to help Ukraine.           

There are many fascinating developments in the cyberwar taking place in Ukraine these past few weeks that are enough to fill many books and even more will be written on how these developments change the course of history. Russia has been significantly amplifying its cyber warfare capabilities for decades. Even during the weeks leading up to the invasion, Russia unleashed a wave of online hacks aimed at disrupting Ukrainian infrastructure. However, now that so many people around the world are joining Ukraine’s side to fight back digitally, it will be interesting to see how events continue to unfold. Yet the situation is tragic. Iler Network and Computing firmly stands with the people of Ukraine.

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