Cyberwars play out in Russia and Ukraine. Picture by Clint Patterson/Unsplash

Russia-Ukraine war faces devastating digital attacks by “forces” armed with viruses and other tech weapons

By Vivian Warby Mar 2, 2022

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Russia is facing intensified cyber attacks as hacker groups have started targeting its president and the country which is at war with Ukraine.

A twitter account, Anonymous, @YourAnonOne, purports to be a group of activists “engaged in a cyber warfare campaign against (President Vladimir) Putin & his allies”.

In a tweet the group said: “We, as activists, will not sit idle as Russia forces, kill and murder (sic) innocent people trying to defend their homeland”.

Twitter account of Anonymous, has over 7m followers.

The group, which has 7.6 million followers, uses the hashtag HackThePlanet in their Twitter bio.

Posts by the account have claimed responsibility for disabling the websites of  Russian oil giant Gazprom as well as the state-controlled Russian news agency RT. The group, an informal collective, also says it has hit the Kremlin's official site.

Cyberwarfare sees a digital attack by “forces” armed with viruses or other tools in which one country disrupts the vital computer systems of another, with the aim of creating destruction and even death.

Countries today are so reliant on computer systems to run things from banks to transport that it makes sense then that hackers would be used to shut down those systems.

Ukraine has not escaped unscathed, and some experts warn that cyber attacks or Internet outages could grow as Russia’s invasion intensifies in the face of resistance.

Ukraine's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) has warned of Belarusian state-sponsored hackers targeting its military personnel and related individuals as part of a phishing campaign mounted amidst Russia's military invasion of the country.

In a Facebook post CERT-UA said: “Mass phishing emails have recently been observed targeting private ‘i.ua’ and ‘meta.ua’ accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and related individuals. After the account is compromised, the attackers, by the IMAP protocol, get access to all the messages. Later, the attackers use contact details from the victim’s address book to send the phishing emails.

“The Minsk-based group ‘UNC1151’ is behind these activities. Its members are officers of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Belarus.”

Anonymous groups allegedly involved in cyber warfare in the Russia-Ukraine war are springing up all over social media. Picture by Bermix Studio/Unsplash

Meanwhile Facebook and TikTok said Monday that the companies would shut down access to Kremlin-controlled media sites RT and Sputnik in Europe, setting the stage for retaliation from Russia.

In blocking Russian state media in the region, the companies are complying with requests from the European Union and individual governments there to punish the media outlets for sharing misinformation and propaganda about Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Facebook's announcement came in a tweet from its president for global affairs, Nick Clegg. TikTok confirmed its decision to The Washington Post late Monday.

In 2017, Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), warned about the threat of cyberwars.

“Given the risks and uncertainty, this is a conversation we need to have right now, not after the cyber genie is out of the bottle and has ripped through the laws of war. By that time, it might be too late.”

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