Ukraine’s voluntary “cyber army”, according to a minister, fights Russian hackers

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The strike had no negative effects, according to Energoatom, the nuclear agency of Ukraine.

Last week, the country’s largest energy producer—which runs four nuclear power plants—survived what officials described as the most significant hacker attack on Ukraine since the end of February.

Highlights

  • “Cyberspace is a frontline of the 21st century, and victories there are as important as in actual battlefields,” Mykhailo Fedorov, the minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, told.

  • Ukrainians are responding to Russian digital infrastructure at the same time. The federal postal service, pension fund, online banking, and video conference platforms were among the more than 600 online services in Russia that were impacted by Ukrainian hackers last month, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation.

In addition to using actual battlefields, Russia is now attacking Ukraine virtually. And in this case, the adversary is picking particularly delicate targets that may affect the security of Ukraine, Europe, and even the entire world.

He is in charge of founding the so-called “IT army,” a grouping of over 230,000 unidentified volunteers who collaborate via the online messaging service Telegram.

Fedorov, however, said that the cyber security apparatus in his nation was extremely effective.

“None out of over 800 cyberattacks since February 24 caused real losses for the Ukrainian economy, stopped the banking system or damaged critical infrastructure,” he said.

Some of the largest IT centres, Lviv, claimed they were hesitant to reveal their participation in the nation’s digital defence activities. Some members of the Lviv IT community told ABC News that employees’ decisions to join the conflict are purely personal. Stepan, a 41-year-old soldier in the IT army, spoke with but requested that his real name not be used out of concern for retaliation.

“On the second or third day of a new phase of Russian aggression I saw the tweet from the minister of digital transformation about the establishment of a Telegram channel, and that was very helpful to figure it out, what exactly to do to help my country,” Stepan said. He claimed to have no prior military experience and to have spent his entire life in front of a computer. Stepan and the rest of the unofficial Ukrainian IT army are now receiving explicit internet orders virtually every day that outline the most important targets and suggest tools they should employ for the coordinated attack.

As a programmer, he is aware that his contributions are only meaningful when they are made as a team: “I am not doing a lot of work, but generally, when we are acting all together, our input is quite useful.” “I just start some applications and I am free for coffee, tracking the process from time to time — maybe some new targets emerged,” he said, adding that the IT warriors were not staying in front of their computers every moment of the day.

The minister, Fedorov, stated that the volunteer IT army’s current task is to maintain Ukraine’s digital frontline while the nation’s regular cyber forces are still being assembled. Daily defences against Russian cyberattacks are in place, he claimed. According to Fedorov, Russia is weaker now that at least 40 cybersecurity firms have announced their exit from the Russian market and suspension of service for Russian customers.

When asked if he worried about the impact of his efforts on everyday Russians, he said that “it is not the time for that, as I do not see any changes in Russian society during these months — sure, it is not a matter of some rapid shifts in their consciousness. That is why we just have to keep on doing what we are doing.” He added, “I am always analyzing and searching for some additional information. Why this particular target is important, who are those people to be affected by our interference.”

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