300,000 “hackers” are already part of it

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Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation in Ukraine, launched a message on February 26 On twitter in which he asked for the help of “digital talents” to create the “IT Army of Ukraine”. A Telegram group coordinates them, and there are already hundreds of thousands of users who have joined this initiative.

Doing this ‘was the right thing to do’. For Kali (Switzerland), Caroline (USA) or Enrique (Lithuania) —all false names cited in TheGuardian—joining this unique army was “the right thing to do”. Enrique recounted, for example, how his parents told him how they were exiled to Siberia, something that worried him that it would end up happening now in this conflict. All of them showed that desire to try to help Ukraine by understanding that Russia’s attack was unjustified and illegal.

An army of 300,000 ‘hackers’. They are just a small sample of an effort that has brought together 300,000 users on the Telegram channel. Not all of them are pure hackers. Each one works in different areas that range from the most technical hacking with which they try to create all kinds of disruptions in Russian communications and digital services to “counter-propaganda” for the fight against Russian disinformation.

DDoS to go-go, but they want more. Denial of service (DDoS) attacks to take down Russian websites and services are being one of the most frequent elements that are being coordinated in this initiative, but there are those who see this as insufficient. For Alex, a Ukrainian software engineer, the ideal would also be to “show the truth to the Russians”, something that, for example, the hacker group Anonymous managed on his own some days ago. These DDoS attacks have almost immediate effects: a link to attack appears in the Telegram group, all the members band together to take it down, and according to Alex “they all go down” within half an hour.

Is it of any use? It’s hard to say. Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, indicates that these “collaborative attacks have been successful in causing disruption to the Russian government and state-supported media websites. [ruso]”. However Alan Woodward, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey, explained that “at best, they only create interference. They may be a nuisance to the Russians, but the attacks we have seen so far have not really affected the Russian fighting ability with any decisive effect.”

Maybe good intentions aren’t enough. Those who are part of this initiative comment that they feel useful and delighted by it, but other experts warn that there may be risks in an effort that is a bit chaotic. “There could be accidents,” Woodward explained. “How often does malware spread and end up in a hospital? I don’t think anyone wants something like that.” This danger is added to others, such as the existence of infiltrated Russian hackers —there are, there are them— or a lack of real impact due to the dispersion of efforts. Still Agnes Venema, a national security and intelligence expert at the University of Malta, explained that “I’m not one to throw superlatives, but I think this level of civic engagement is unprecedented.”

Image | Mica Speck

Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation in Ukraine, launched a message on February 26 On twitter in which he asked…

Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation in Ukraine, launched a message on February 26 On twitter in which he asked…

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