As well as appeals for military help from NATO forces, Ukraine also appealed to IT experts and hackers all over the world to assist in fighting back against Russian aggression. As many as 300,000 hackers from all over the world have come together in a Telegram conversation to discuss ways that they can disrupt Russia’s military efforts, economy, and government IT systems.
The Telegram conversation, known as the “IT Army of Ukraine,” has almost one-third of a million participants. Participants of the hacking network are given assignments, and then given free rein to use their IT skills to hack their way into Russian computer systems and cause as much trouble as possible.
Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, also promoted that Telegram channel back in February – only two days after the invasion began.
“We are creating an IT army,” he said. “We need digital talents.”
He linked to the Telegram channel and instructed hackers to receive their tasks via the chat room.
“There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists,” he said on February 26.
Russian Hackers Went Quiet as Putin Launched Invasion
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian cybercriminals and hacking gangs went quiet. Anton Dahbura, the executive director of the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute offered an insight into why so little has been heard from Russian hackers, after a year of high-profile attacks against the United States government and large multinationals.
Dahbura said that the impact of Russian hackers on Ukraine so far has been “relatively minor” and that while there were some preliminary attacks on Ukrainian government systems in late February, those attacks never materialized into something more severe.
“Some of the criminal groups have tried to maintain some distance and aren’t all in as far as Ukraine,” Dahbura added.
Hackers may also be unlikely to target Ukraine to any great extent as there is no money to be made.
“But the larger factor here is that the criminal elements are for-profit and evidently are really enjoying their sports cars and villas, and so performing hacks on Ukraine’s IT systems is not profitable,” Dahbura said.
Perhaps one of the most surprising twists in the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that Ukraine may have the upper hand when it comes to cyberattacks.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.