Could Ukrainian civilian hackers against Russians cause more harm than good?

Ukrainian civilian hackers have divided cybersecurity experts – one side says it’s a normal defensive response in light of Russia’s attacks, and the other fears it’s spiraling out of control.

When the first missiles hit Ukraine, thousands of civilian cyber experts banded together to create a “computer army”, claiming to have engaged in cyber operations that blocked access to several government websites and Russian media.

The group works closely with the Ukrainian government to gather intelligence on offensive and potential targets in Russia.

They also conducted cyber operations to counter Russian censorship of the attack.

Another group in the Ukrainian cyber army is the hacking collective called Anonymous.

The international hacker movement announced on Twitter that they are now in a “cyber war against the Russian government”.

Ukraine calls on hackers to help cyber defense against Russia

No one knows their identity, what tools and skills they possess, and how they conduct these cyber operations, but they are united against their common enemy: Russia.

While some governments and cyber officials have embraced these cyber operations against Russia, making them an exception in Ukraine, experts warn that these efforts could do more harm than good and could accidentally harm innocent people.

Ukraine is a signatory to the Budapest Convention which commits countries to enact national laws on unauthorized access to computer systems and digital communications.

At the same time, Ukraine has a right to self-defense under the UN Charter, and this may include activities in cyberspace in response to Russian aggression.

“If this activity is defensive – protecting Ukrainian networks, for example, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Quentin Hodgson, a senior researcher at RAND Corporation who specializes in cyber operations, cybersecurity, homeland security and privacy protection. critical infrastructure, at TRT World. .

“The challenge arises when civilians – non-combatants – engage in response operations against Russia and conduct these cyber response actions against Russian systems and networks,

“This may expose these individuals to additional risk, including personal risk if the Russians identify them and choose to retaliate.”

According to recent polls conducted by the Washington Post column, The Cybersecurity 202, 47% of experts said such hacks were justified in the extraordinary circumstances of the Russian attack on Ukraine. About 53% thought they weren’t.

A common argument among experts defending Ukraine’s cyber activities is that civilians are fighting back against Russian attacks.

“In a real war, those who defend their sovereign nation should not always be asked to justify their actions in front of those of us sitting safe at home with our families.” Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne, told The Washington Post’s Cybersecurity 202.

However, those who oppose it say offensive hacking leaves everyone less safe.

“Even though my career was on the defensive side, I was very aware of and sometimes considered the offensive side of the spectrum,” Matt Coons, a former US Marine Corps sergeant who served five years on active duty as a systems administrator Intelligence Specials 2651., said TRT World.

“All that said, I believe there are serious ramifications when civilians overtly attempt to attack, disrupt and destroy the IT infrastructure of another company or another country.”

In early February, Russia launched a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, targeting the country’s banking and defense websites. They were allegedly launched by the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

On March 1, Anonymous “declared war” on the Russian state and targeted sites run by Russian state media. The group also breached the systems of Roskomnadzor, the Russian agency responsible for monitoring and censoring the media. He leaked more than 360,000 files, including advice on how to refer to the conflict in Ukraine.

The IT army, meanwhile, targeted the websites of Russian banks, power grids and the railway system.

The group also launched widespread DDoS attacks against strategically important Russian targets.

Coons, who has also served as a cybersecurity analyst with the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on IT infrastructure need special attention in order to limit the range and damage.

“There are very few instances where you can customize a DDOS attack or other hacks and not harm innocent people in the middle,” he said.

Last year, a German patient suffering from a life-threatening illness died after the University Clinic in Düsseldorf was hit by a ransomware attack.

The hospital couldn’t admit it because its systems were down due to a cyberattack.

“A lot of times, the intended targets rely on the same data and financial services as everyone else,” Coons said.

“And tackling those hard targets ends up doing a lot of harm along the way.”

Thousands of non-Ukrainians are also said to have joined the IT army from the United States or the United Kingdom, where experts say they could violate cybercrime laws in those countries, such as the Fraud Act and computer abuse in the United States and computer misuse law in Britain.

In February, The Guardian quoted Western officials warning amateur hackers against joining the IT army, fearing cyberattacks were spiraling out of control.

“Depending on the country they are operating from, their actions could violate national laws on unauthorized access and interference with systems and networks,” Hodgson said.

“It is not clear, however, that law enforcement in these countries will take action to identify them and bring legal action against them.”

Source: World TRT

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