The hacking group Anonymous has waged a cyberwar against Russia…

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(MENAFN – The Conversation)

A spate of cyberattacks has wracked Ukraine’s digital systems since the Russian invasion began. It quickly became clear that Russia’s “boots on the ground” approach would be complemented by a parallel cyber offensive.

Last week Ukraine called on its citizens to get behind their keyboards and defend the country against Russia’s cyber threat. At the same time, a campaign was underway by the hacktivist collective Anonymous, which called on its global army of cyber warriors to target Russia.

Who is anonymous?

Anonymous is a global activist community that has been active since at least 2008. It holds potential for significant cyber disruption in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for hacktivism against a variety of targets, including large corporations and governments. Anonymous’ activities are often focused on large-scale events, and the group claims to have an “anti-oppression” agenda.

The collective has no defined structure or leadership. Actions are simply conducted under the “Anonymous” banner, using some reports of limited engagement rules to guide actions (although these are likely to be fluid).

Because Anonymous is a movement with no formal legal status or assets, responsibility for actions shifts to individuals. However, a fundamental problem of attribution remains in cybersecurity incidents, where it is difficult to pinpoint a specific source of an attack.

Read more: A decade since the ‘Year of the Hacktivists’, online protests seem to be making a comeback

What are they threatening?

On February 16, Anonymous TV published a video message with a series of recommendations and threats. Echoing the stereotypical “hacker” image, the masked speaker issues a stern warning to Russia:

Since then, several Russian government websites and media outlets have been targeted, with Anonymous taking credit on its Twitter channel.

The attacks used the same distributed denial-of-service techniques used in many previous cyberattacks, including attacks on Ukrainian banks and government websites. In such attacks, the attacker takes targeted websites offline by flooding them with bot traffic.

Other incidents included the theft and disclosure of Russian Defense Ministry data that may contain sensitive information useful to militants in Ukraine. E-mails from the Belarusian arms manufacturer Tetraedr and data from the Russian Nuclear Institute were also reportedly accessed.

It’s too early to tell how useful this data can be. Most of the stolen information will be in Russian, meaning translators will be needed to examine it.

Russian TV stations were also attacked and forced to play Ukrainian music and show uncensored news about the conflict from news sources outside Russia.

It’s hard to be sure that Anonymous carried out the cyberattacks it has claimed responsibility for. The movement is based on anonymity and there are no viable means of verification. But the tactics, objectives and theatrics shown are consistent with previous attacks claimed by the group.

While some attacks are not a direct result of Anonymous’ actions, one could argue that this doesn’t really matter. Anonymous is about being perceived as effective.

Will it make a difference?

It is unlikely that the cyber attacks claimed by Anonymous will have a significant impact on Russia’s intentions or military tactics. However, these actions could provide important information about certain Russian tactics that would be valuable to the Ukrainians and their allies.

Another benefit is that the impact of the invasion on the Ukrainian people will receive more attention – particularly in Russia, where news is heavily censored. This could help counteract Russia’s domestic propaganda machine and present a more balanced view of events.

Cyber ​​attacks are likely to continue to escalate on both sides, involving both state and non-state actors. Russia’s National Center for Computer Incident Response and Coordination has raised its threat level to critical, indicating concerns about Russia’s infrastructure that is a target of cyberattacks.

Read more: As Russia wages a cyber war on Ukraine, Australia (and the rest of the world) could suffer collateral damage

Citizen hackers

In addition to Anonymous, numerous Ukrainian cyber experts have volunteered to help with Ukraine’s cyber defenses. The volunteers are organized through Telegram channels and other encrypted apps.

Their objectives include defending Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, assisting the government in cyber espionage, removing Russian disinformation from the internet, and attacking Russian infrastructure, banks, and government websites.

But despite reports of around 175,000 people joining the cyber army’s Telegram channel, its impact remains unclear so far.

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