Some of the first evidence of the scale of the cyber conflict going on over Ukraine appears in this release from Microsoft. The key lines are:
“Before the Russian invasion, our teams began working around the clock to help organizations in Ukraine, including government agencies, defend against an onslaught of cyberwarfare that has escalated since the invasion began and has continued relentlessly.”
“Since then, we have observed nearly all of Russia’s nation-state actors engaged in the ongoing full-scale offensive against Ukraine’s government and critical infrastructure, and we continue to work closely with government and organizations of all kinds in Ukraine to help them defend against this onslaught. “
Full statement here:
“If anything, the strategy of declassifying intelligence around Russia’s intentions has given the US a taste of something it hasn’t known in years: some control of the international narrative.”
Full story here.
Cybersecurity and the fight against disinformation share one key feature that, if better understood, could point the way to a more durable defence for democracies.
Malware on the internet and the meaning of content online are reversible in ways that challenge the orderly processing of information needed for stable democracies.
In the cyber domain, order is the ability for businesses, governments and economies to function without data breaches, disruptions and the theft of valuable data.
Order, in the case of online content, means the public’s ability to understand and trust the information they receive.
The weapons of malware on the internet are themselves information that, with re-engineering, can be repurposed to be used against their creators.
The Shadow Brokers hacking group exposed tools used by US intelligence agencies. Once the tools were hacked and released in 2016, they were incorporated into ransomware used against US and Western targets.
The full piece here for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Now more than ever, protest movements and even armies can be self-funding. While we debate how the unidentified financial object that is cryptocurrency should be treated by markets, it’s increasingly becoming a form of power.
Ukraine is fundraising millions of dollars crowdsourced funds via Twitter and a crypto addresses.
“Ukraine’s official Twitter account made the appeal for cryptocurrency donations on Saturday following the country’s invasion by Russia, posting digital wallets addresses for tokens including bitcoin and ether.”
It’s also a way to self-fund movements.
For example, the Canadian Freedom trucker protest.
“The Ontario Provincial Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police ordered all regulated financial firms to cease facilitating any transactions from 34 crypto wallets tied to funding trucker-led protests in the country.”
And it’s also a way to shuffle funds from place to place, outside the view of state regulators, as say, Russian oligarchs flee to safety as their patron Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine.
“The effort comes as the Biden administration grapples with how to police the asset class amid concerns that tokens can be used to avoid the heavily-regulated traditional financial system.”
For now, these are disparate examples. But knowing where an organisation funds come from and go to now involves the sort of forensics we routinely see applied to researching social media misinformation, vast sets of data that are scrutinised for clues.
I imagine weaker states will struggle to understand the wealth flowing over their borders.