The world is watching closely the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that began on 24 February 2022 by air, land, and sea-Is it hinting at a cyberwar being declared soon?
The war has been a classic one so far, with airfighters, tanks and troops rolling in from Russia. However, a Cyberwar is happening in parallel that started even before the classic war.
In January 2022, Ukraine was targeted with “wiper” malware, designed to destroy computers by wiping their contents completely. In February, this was followed by a “denial of services” attack that flooded Ukraine’s government and banking websites with spam traffic, making them difficult to access.
On the other hand, thousands of Ukrainians are taking part in cyberattacks on Russia, targeting government services, media, transportation, and payments systems. These Ukrainians volunteered to participate in this war in response to Ukraine’s Minister for Digital Transformation’s request for “digital talents” for an “IT Army”.
Anonymous, a decentralised international activist and hacktivist collective and movement, declared war against Russia on 25 February 2022. Since then, the group has claimed credit for several cyber incidents, including distributed denial of service attacks against government websites such as the Kremlin and Ministry of Defence, hacking the Ministry of Defence database and state TV channels.
This cyberwar is in the shadows and is still warming up. Russia, the hacking superpower, has surprisingly put in limited efforts, so far compared to what they did when they attacked Georgia in 2008 and again when they attacked Ukraine in 2014. Back then, Russia launched sophisticated cyberattacks that hijacked internet traffic and allowed them to take over communications networks.
Ukraine was preparing for this war and had started uplifting their cyber defence capability to defend and protect itself from cyber attacks. Today among other countries, Australia is providing Ukraine with technical assistance to help repel Russian cyber attacks. Australian ministers had paid special attention to strengthening Ukraine’s defence capabilities and practical support for developing cyber defence systems in Ukraine. Hence, there is a possibility that the cyberwar will spill beyond the borders of the two combatants.
The situation is serious and if officially declared, cyberwar is a great threat. It targets critical infrastructure, including healthcare, water, energy, and telecommunication among others. It can lead to unintended consequences, including impacts for innocent targets. It’s as bad as the classic war.
As a result, the ACSC (Australian Cyber Security Centre) has issued an alert with high severity urging Australian businesses to adopt an enhanced cybersecurity posture and increased monitoring for threats. To keep up with the evolving cyber security threats landscape, the ACSC recommends that Australian businesses review and enhance their detection, mitigation, and response capabilities to reduce blindspots in their network and quickly react when an incident happens.
Whether it is a cyberwar or a classic war, it is definitely not the right choice. And there is no winner in wars. Parties should meet together, talk in transparency and work together for a better future for all humankind. I hope for all wars to stop and for a world of peace and justice for all.
Stay cyber safe!
Author: Mouaz Alnouri