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‘Hybrid Warfare’ – Russia & Counter-Russia Cyberwars

By Will Ellis
Last Updated on November 17, 2023

The age of new-level ‘hybrid warfare’ – what does it mean?

As news of a seeming war between Russia and Ukraine breaks out, there is talk of hybrid warfare, which has important applications for how cyberspace itself will participate in real-world conflicts. 

In this news post, we are going to cover the ‘hybrid war’ between Russia and Ukraine, and other third-party entities (i.e. the Anonymous hacking group) and nations.

Allegations of hybrid war, pre-invasion of Ukraine

Some sources claim that Russia used malware against Ukraine for the eight years leading up to the recent seeming invasion. These were cyberattacks designed to take down Ukrainian computers.

Some researchers at security company ESET allegedly detected Russian cyberattacks on multiple computers in Ukraine. 

ESET found what is known as “wiper” attacks.  This form of malware aims to disable or delete, the full hard drive of a target computer. In fact, its only function is to make the machine unusable. It’s a subset of a DDoS attack.

The software, used to employ large-scale wiper attacks, has been nicknamed “HermeticWiper”, and indications are that it is two months old. Leading to ESET tweeting on its findings, saying that if discovered “DDoS attacks against several Ukrainian websites earlier today”.

The second major security software firm, Symantec, believes the malware was actually created as early as November 2021.

Attacks on banks and ministries

According to reports, the computer systems of numerous Ukrainian ministries, banks, and federal organisations were hit by denial of service attacks. The US attacks happen when organisations servers are so bombarded with connection requests that they shut down.

Over a single week, Ukraine claimed the defense ministry and two big Ukrainian banks (JSC Oschadbank and PrivatBank) were cyber-attacked. As a result, affecting full banking systems and customers.

Ukraine believes that this has been happening for at least the last year; that this kind of cyber “hybrid war” has been used as a substitute for bombs and guns. Instead, malicious scripts are being used.

Cyberwar waged against Russia by hacking group Anonymous

Anonymous is a world-famous group of “hacktivists”. Because they are pretty informal, it’s hard to define them. But the word “hacktivist” is a portmanteau of “hacker” and “activist”. 

These are people with technical skills, who understand how the internet and network infrastructure and servers work, and so put this knowledge to use in order to influence world events.

Generally, the Anonymous group targets organisations and corporations that they believe are corrupt and so should be brought down. For instance, they took part in the Arab Spring uprising of 2011, by targeting the Egyptian government in order to help remove its president Mubarak from power.

They’ve supposedly stepped into this latest struggle. They’re allegedly attacking the Russian government in cyberspace, and have already been credited for bringing down the website Russia Today, which is a Russian-controlled news network.

This attack was announced using one of its most affiliated Twitter accounts. The DDoS attack wasn’t permanent, and the RT website came back online the following day.

Hybrid warfare explained

Hybrid warfare is a military-strategy theory that may or may not be particularly useful in making sense of struggles between warring states – but it’s not a debate that the information age offers a greater array of attack points than has ever been possible. Here are a few components:

  • ☑️ Conventional warfare – Conventional weapons and battle tactics used in an open confrontation.
  • ☑️ Irregular warfare – Nearly all wars have some level of regular fare, which violently compete for control over populations.
  • ☑️ Cyberwarfare – The use of digital tactics, oftentimes to disrupt core computer systems.
  • ☑️ Other methods of influence – Mixed aspects of propaganda, rigging and so on.

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