Cyberwarfare is fast, dirty, and relentless; It’s more brutal than the war happening on the actual battlefront. The Ukraine-Russia conflict laid out the modern paradigm of what cyber warfare would be like and how impactful it can be in changing the narrative.
In the shadows of the digital realm, the battlefield of cyber warfare is a treacherous and unpredictable landscape, where the weapons of choice are not bombs or bullets, but lines of code and algorithms.
The impact of these attacks can be far more devastating than traditional warfare, as the targeted destruction of vital systems can cripple entire economies, cripple national infrastructure, and manipulate public opinion on a massive scale.
The battleground of cyber warfare is a world of shadows and secrets, where the warriors are patiently waiting for the slightest of vulnerability to exploit.
The Invisible War
Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February and is met with fierce resistance from the Ukrainian force. The defenders are not making it easy for the Russian troops on the ground.
However, there is another warfare taking place beneath the surface, and it is one that could be even more consequential than the war happening on the battleground. And this is where Ukraine is hurting Russia the most……the Cyberwarfae.
The battlefront has expanded beyond the physical realm, into the digital arena, where the long-running cyber war between these two nations has taken on a new level of intensity.
The long-running cyber conflict between Russia and its neighbor has also entered a new chapter, with Russia at times appearing to be attempting to figure out the role of its hacking operations in the middle of a violent, physical ground combat.
Since 2014, Ukraine has been considered Russia’s testing ground for offensive cyber and information operations, primarily to wage political warfare. But things have started to escalate both ways after the all-out invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022.
The sound of keyboards clacking and screens flashing, as squads of cyber warriors on opposing sides engage in cyber attacks for control of the digital domain. The stakes are high, with the outcome of the fight possibly defining the region’s and the world’s destiny.
Earlier Russia was focused on the political front but now they are attacking targets such as military systems, power grids, or transportation networks through cyber attacks.
Russian intelligence is now opting for new cyberwarfare tactics, allowing for faster assaults, sometimes breaking the same target numerous times within months, and sometimes even keeping clandestine access to Ukrainian networks while destroying as many machines as possible.
But it’s not just Russians who are on the offensive, Ukraine is playing an important part in manipulating public opinion, and causing damage to Russian military targets.
To carry out these attacks on Russian targets, many Ukrainian people have joined forces with the military. They are launching conventional DDoS [distributed denial of service] attacks. These attacks are simple to execute and do not require significant hacking skills. The goal is to have as many computers as possible accessing a single Russian or Belarussian website at the same time, forcing it to crash.
Their targets include the Central Bank of Russia, the National Bank of Belarus, and Russian state news agencies such as Interfax and the Kremlin itself. They are even taking aim at Russian-backed media in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, in a bid to counteract their propaganda.
Working together through the encrypted messaging service Telegram, these hackers are using their combined skills and resources to unleash a wave of digital attacks using their computers that spew out multiple requests to the website in question.
Because of these frequent cyber-attacks, many Russian websites are now blocking users from Ukraine to prevent these kinds of attacks. So the hackers have to mask their location using a VPN (virtual private network) to carry out these attacks.
The number of hackers joining the fight in the ongoing battle between Russia and Ukraine is fast growing as cyberwarfare intensifies. Ukraine’s official “IT Army,” a government-backed Telegram group of over 300,000 volunteer cyber-warriors dedicated to protecting their nation in the digital sphere, is at the vanguard of this movement.
But, it is not just official organizations that are contributing to the increase in cyber-attacks. Unofficial groups are also on the rise, with hackers from many diverse backgrounds joining together to wage attacks against a common enemy. To make matters worse, some of these organizations are building simple software that lets even persons with basic technical skills join and carry out these attacks.
Every day, hackers target hundreds of websites. Some websites fall down in a matter of seconds, while others take several hours. Russian sites frequently change their IP addresses to avoid being targeted, but Telegram groups quickly discover new ones. They then strike them again.