Volunteer Hackers Converge on Ukraine Conflict With No One in Charge

Ukraine has been more deliberate about recruiting volunteer hacking forces. In the telegram channels, participants encouraged their cooperation with the government in pursuing goals such as the Russian state-owned bank, Sberbank. From Russia, where links between the government and hacking groups have long raised alarms among Western officials, there have been no similarly explicit calls for action.

“We are building an IT army,” Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mikhail Fedorov, tweeted on Saturday, directing cyber security enthusiasts to a telegram channel with instructions to hack Russian websites offline. “There will be tasks for everyone.” As of Friday, the Telegram channel had more than 285,000 subscribers.

Inside the main English-language telegram page for Ukraine’s IT Army is a 14-page preliminary document that provides details on how people can participate, including what software to download to hide their whereabouts and identities. Every day, new targets are listed, including websites, telecommunications firms, banks and ATM processors.

Yegor Oshev, co-founder of Cyber ​​Unit Technologies, a Ukrainian cybersecurity company, said he was overwhelmed by the notes after posting on social media to get programmers involved. His company offered a 100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of Russian cyber-target code.

Mr. Aushev said more than 1,000 people were involved in his effort, working in close collaboration with the government. People were only allowed to join if someone assured them. Organized in small groups, they aimed to hit high-impact targets, such as the critical infrastructure and logistics systems for the Russian military.

“It has become an independent machine, a distributed international digital army,” he said. Oshev said. “The biggest hacks against Russia will happen soon,” he added without elaborating.

A government confirmed the work with Shri. Oshev.

It is always difficult to find out who is behind cyber attacks. Groups incorrectly take credit or boast of a bigger impact than they actually did. But this week saw a spate of attacks against Russian targets. The country’s largest stock exchange, state-controlled bank and the Russian Foreign Ministry were briefly taken offline after being targeted by volunteer hackers in Ukraine.

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