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Cyberactivism: experts advise to stay away from the Ukrainian conflict

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According to Livia Tibirna, an analyst at cybersecurity firm Sekoia, nearly 260,000 people had joined the cyberarmy group of voluntary hackers IT Army on Tuesday, raised on the initiative of Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov.

This group, accessible through encrypted Telegram messaging, displays a list of potential targets in Russia, companies or institutions, that hackers are tasked with targeting.

A close-up photo of a phone screen showing icons for various messaging apps, including Telegram.

The encrypted messaging application Telegram, in particular, is used to communicate by the volunteers who are part of the cyber army of voluntary hackers IT Army.

Photo: iStock

It is quite difficult to know if this cyber army will play a role going beyond the simple publicity stunt in the service of the Ukrainian cause, or if it will manage to have real effects on Russian entities.

The reported actions seem for the moment to be limited to attacks by distributed denial of service (DDoS), when in a coordinated manner very many requests are sent to a website to saturate it and cause it to crash.

Actions to replace home pages with hacked pages were also briefly observed on Russian sites.

The cyber army could also be called upon to try to identify vulnerabilities on Russian sites, to send them to specialists capable of carrying out more sophisticated actions of intrusion, data theft or destruction, according to what Clément Domingo explains, co-founder of Hackers Without Borders.

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But the latter and the other specialists to whom AFP spoke warn hackers against participating in the activities of this cyberarmy, or other actions such as those of the Anonymous group.

Despite the war, a cybercrime remains a crime

I strongly advise against to join these actions, believes Damien Bancal, a connoisseur of the opaque world of cybercrime. There are plenty of other ways to help Ukrainians who are sufferingif only by relaying the testimonials that are flourishing on social networks, he believes.

For cybersecurity researcher Swit Hak, hackers would take too many risks. There are legal risks, for example, that are not measured, he believes. Attempting to attack a website or break into a server or network is a computer crimehe points out.

hackback“,”text”:”There is a real risk of hackback”}}”>There is a real risk of hack back, that is to say destructive counter-attacks by Russian pirates, also believes Clément Domingo. This is particularly alarmed to see that many people who have come forward to lend a hand to the IT Army have obviously not taken the trouble to create a special Telegram account for this purpose, at the risk of see identify by the Russian side.

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The divided cybercrime community

In cyberspace, and in particular on forums and other discussion groups on Telegram and the messaging and audio chat software Discord, we don’t know who is whosays Félix Aimé, also a researcher at Sekoia.

Hackers with little experience could be deceived by members of the opposite camp, and end up working for the adversary they wanted to fight, he explains.

On the side of experienced hackers, to whom many ransomware attacks are attributed, a certain confusion also seems to reign, with a fratricidal struggle between pro-Russian hackers and pro-Ukrainian hackers.

The Conti ransomware group, which had declared its support for Russia, saw in response one of its pro-Ukrainian members publish more than a year of its internal communications, offering a treasure trove of information to all on the planet. cybersecurity researchers, and police forces and secret services.

Forums where cybercriminals and cybercriminals meet try to stay away from any debate on the Russian-Ukrainian war to avoid attracting the attention of state services, underlines Livia Tibirna.

One of these forums known to specialists, entitled raidforumsthus mysteriously disappeared, probably under the action of one of the parties to the conflict who felt threatened by his activity.

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