Volunteers sign up to help in cyberwars between Russia and Ukraine

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Cyber warfare is being waged, not only between Ukraine and Russia, but on behalf of these countries by “digital soldiers” from around the world.

Rapeepong Puttakumwong | Moment | Getty Images

Cyber warfare related to the Ukraine-Russia conflict is surging as digital volunteers from around the world enter the fight.

The number of cyberattacks being waged by — and on behalf of — both countries since the outbreak of the war is “staggering,” according to the research arm of Check Point Software Technologies.

“For the first time in history anyone can join a war,” said Lotem Finkelstein, head of threat intelligence at Check Point Software. “We’re seeing the entire cyber community involved, where many groups and individuals have taken a side, either Russia or Ukraine.”

“It’s a lot of cyber chaos,” he said.

Grassroots, global uprising

In the first three days following the invasion, online attacks against Ukrainian military and governmental sectors increased by 196%, according to Check Point Research (CPR). They also modestly increased against Russian (4%) and Ukrainian (0.2%) organizations, according to the data, while simultaneously falling in most other parts of the world.

Since then, Ukrainian authorities estimate some 400,000 multinational hackers have volunteered to help Ukraine, said Yuval Wollman, president of cyber security company CyberProof and the former director-general of the Israeli Intelligence Ministry.

Source: Check Point Research

‘IT Army of Ukraine’

As a long-time target of suspected Russian cyberattacks, Ukraine is seemingly welcoming the digital help.

Following a request posted on Twitter by Ukraine’s digital minister Mykhailo Fedorov, some 308,000 people joined a Telegram group known as the “IT Army of Ukraine.”  

One member of the group is Gennady Galanter, co-founder of information technology company Provectus. He said the group is focused on disrupting Russian websites, preventing disinformation and getting accurate information to Russian citizens.

“It’s working,” he said, clarifying that he’s acting in his own capacity, and not for his company.  

Still, Galanter said he has mixed feelings about participating. One tactic employed by the group is distributed denial of service attacks, which try to make targeted websites inaccessible by overwhelming them with online traffic.

The reality is that a lot of my friends in Russia, my relatives … they’re completely misinformed.

Gennady Galanter

co-founder of Provectus

“It’s hooliganism,” he said, yet at the same time Galanter, who fled the Soviet Union in 1991 and whose wife is Russian, said he feels compelled to help do his part to “deliver truth and deny lies.” 

He’s donated money, he said, but now, he added, “I’m doing this because I don’t know what else to do.”

Galanter said he’s concerned current efforts may be insufficient against Russia’s cyber capabilities. He also said he’s worried the group’s efforts may be dismissed as Ukrainian or Western propaganda or labeled a disinformation machine of the very type he says he’s fighting against.

“The reality is that a lot of my friends in Russia, my relatives … they’re completely misinformed,” he said. “They have a deeply inaccurate view of what’s going on — they just put to doubt what we say.”

Galanter said his company shut down its operations in Russia and helped to relocate employees who wanted to leave. He said the company told employees: “The world has become pretty white and black. Those of you who share our perception of reality, you’re welcome to join us.”

“Just like these people are now, I was a refugee,” he said. “What [Putin] wants to create is exactly what I escaped.”

Moscow retaliation

Spillover to other conflicts?

The Ukraine-Russia war could inflame other long-standing territorial conflicts as well. Two Taiwanese tech startups, AutoPolitic and QSearch, announced last week they are providing free technology assistance to Ukraine and to “Ukrainian online activists around the globe” to counter Russian propaganda on social media.

“Being a Taiwanese who lived under constant propaganda and threats of invasion from our cousin-neighbor, I feel a special bond with Ukrainians and acidic anger at their invaders,” said AutoPolitic founder Roger Do, via a press release.





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