The World Today for May 17, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

All Hot on the Cyber Front

RUSSIA

On May 9, as Russian soldiers, tanks and other vehicles paraded through the Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, the Russian news website Lenta.ru was running headlines like “Putin Unleashed One of the Bloodiest Wars Of the 21st Century,”  “Putin Has Turned Into a Miserable Dictator and Paranoiac,” and “It’s Easy To Cover Holes In The Economy With War. Putin Must Go Away,” noted Radio Free Europe.

The outlet wasn’t hacked, per se. Rather, journalists at the website wrote the headlines to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But the incident highlighted how, as the information war on the cyber front was as hot as ever, Russia was arguably faring as poorly as it has been with its conventional troops, Insider reported.

Russia’s cyberwarfare capabilities have long enjoyed a formidable reputation. As the Washington Post detailed, however, its digital and physical infrastructure has come under withering attacks since its invasion of Ukraine in late February. Many major Russian government agencies and companies have had sensitive information made public or systems disrupted.

These setbacks are occurring partially because major hacking organizations like Anonymous have launched attacks against Russia in response to the invasion, as Fortune described. But they are just one of many so-called “hacktivist” groups who have rallied around Ukraine and targeted Russian systems, added Reuters.

Hacktivists exploited holes in computers running Windows XP operating systems in Belarus, for example, to cause chaos for Russian military commanders transporting troops through the East European country’s rail network, Computer World explained.

Domestically, Russian officials are having trouble manipulating information. Russian citizens have flocked to virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass state limits on Internet communications that might relate forbidden coverage of the war that doesn’t align with the Kremlin’s public relations strategy, reported Al Jazeera.

To say that Russia has scored no wins in the cyberwar involving Ukraine would be wrong, of course. The country was already launching cyberattacks against Ukraine in January, noted the Independent. Among their successes before the invasion, for example, was when Russian hackers took out a Ukrainian satellite-based internet system, crippling information in the country as Russian troops planned their advance, wrote the National Interest.

Cyberattacks against Britain alone have also increased by more than 70 percent since the war began, wrote the Financial Times. The US has also been investing big time in cyberwarfare capabilities in recent years to ward off attacks from Russia and others, Bloomberg added.

The good news is that Russia can’t simply dominate the cyber battlefield. The bad news is that nobody else appears to be able to do so, either.

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