The world has rallied around Ukraine since Russian forces invaded this past week, including, it seems, hackers. The hacktivist collective Anonymous, which gained prominence between 2008 and 2014 with a series of high-profile politically motivated cyber-attacks against such disparate groups as the Church of Scientology and PayPal, has come out of the woodwork once again by declaring “war” on the Russian government. In a statement released on Twitter, Anonymous took responsibility for hijacking the Russian state television channel and replacing it with the Ukrainian national anthem playing over an image of the Ukrainian flag. The group also took responsibility for a distributed denial of service attack against RT, the Russian state news agency. And, in a personal jab at Russian President Putin, Anonymous hackers updated international maritime records to rename Putin’s personal yacht “FCKPTN” and change its destination to “Hell.” They also changed the yacht’s documented course to show it crashing into Snake Island, the site of a Ukrainian military installation that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine seems to welcome these efforts. A Ukrainian startup called Cyber Unit Technologies has reportedly offered hackers a $100,000 bounty in exchange for exposing Russian cyber vulnerabilities and taking down Russian websites. Similarly, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, announced that Ukraine would be recruiting an “IT army” of cyber specialists to destabilize the Russian invasion. And, in an ironic twist for readers of this blog, a Belarusian ransomware group reportedly used their capabilities to disrupt Russian troop movement by shutting down a train network.
It’s too early to tell whether these efforts will pay off for Ukraine. However, the outpouring of international support has bolstered Ukraine’s defenders’ morale as they enter their second week of successfully repelling the invasion. Whatever the outcome, observers should be moved to see hackers and government officials coming together for a common cause.
*This post was authored by Blair Robinson, legal intern at Robinson+Cole. Blair is not admitted to practice law.