THE UKRAINE IT ARMY
An IT army in a country under siege? How is that possible? Ukraine is a major software development hub in Europe and many of its 200,000 tech specialists have earned global recognition for their IT talents and skills. That’s not bad for a country with a population of 44 million. But is Ukraine’s IT army a distraction or an analogy for something else? No way. In an effort to strike back at the Russians, Ukrainian coding specialists have joined forces to wage a cyberwar against its aggressors. In a tweet posted on 26 February, Mykhailo Fedorov, the Ukrainian Digital Minister, implored talented experts to enrol in the IT army. His tweet read:
“We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents. All operational tasks will be given here: https://t.me/itarmyofurraine. There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists.”
According to CNBC, over 311,000 volunteers have signed up for the ‘IT army of Ukraine’ to date. Not all of these individuals are from the former Soviet state.
WE’RE GOOD AT THIS
Many Ukrainian coders who are members of the IT army split their time between their day jobs and cyberwar against Russia. Dave, a Ukrainian who works remotely for a U.S. tech consultancy has reported that the IT army has been able to carry out multiple cyberattacks since the Russian invasion, with targets including Russian government websites, Banks and online retailers. Dave explained his role in executing Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks and said:
“I’m helping the IT Army with running DDoS attacks. I’ve rented a few servers on Google Cloud Platform and wrote a bot for myself that just accepts website links and targets attacks at them whenever I paste them in. I’m usually running attacks from 3-5 servers and each server usually produces around 50,000 requests per second.”
Nikita, another Ukrainian who is the CEO and co-founder of a cybersecurity firm that does penetration testing to check for network vulnerabilities, is a member of the IT army Telegram channel. Nikita claims that using the messaging service, he is trying to inform Russian citizens about what is really happening in Ukraine, amid the barrage of misinformation and tight social media controls from the Kremlin. He added that he and his hacking team also intend to put economic pressure on Russia by targeting petrol stations with cyberattacks. Nikita told CNBC:
“I published like 110,000 credit cards in the Telegram channels. We want them to go to the Stone Age and we are pretty good at this.”
ETHICAL HACKING VERSUS THE IT ARMY
Some say that the IT army is, in essence, an example of ethical hacking. It’s anything but. In the UK it is illegal to engage in cyber militia organised by foreign countries. Put simply, both local and international hacking is a crime. Also, considering that the IT army has conscripts from all over the world, classifying its existence in terms of international humanitarian law (IHL) is a complex process.
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