The Anti-Terrorist operation continues not only in the east of Ukraine, and not only in the real world. Civil activists in other Ukrainian regions are trying to make their investment into the fight against separatists, including specialists in computer technologies.
The activists have created several online groups which engage in discovering and blocking electronic accounts of the leaders of the so-called “people’s republics” in Donbas and even blocking their cell phone numbers.
On Tuesday, an IT specialist from Kyiv Yevgen Dokunin (this is not his real name) posted on Facebook that his colleagues and himself managed to achieve the blockage of the accounts of the leaders of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. According to him, he is the one who conducts cyber-attacks on the separatists’ websites.
Another groups called “Cyberdefence,” on the contrary, protect Ukrainian websites and electronic registries from external attacks – such as the attempted attack on the servers of the Central Elections Committee on the day of the presidential elections in Ukraine which, according to the information of the Ukrainian government, was made from Russian territory.
“Cyberdefence” activist Sergiy Kostiukov talks about the methods of war, the particularities of cyber attacks and protection against them:
“As states and state structures, private structures integrate further into the informational community, we become less protected from various computer and cybernetic attacks. This touches on the protection of personal data, protection of state data, various registries, databases, the hacker movement, which is done on personal initiative or on orders of the special services. Recently there have been several well-known cases in Ukraine connected with infiltration into the information systems, databases, in particular, this happened before the presidential elections – the attempt to infiltrate the system “Vybory,” the state registries. This, in general, puts into jeopardy not only the livelihood of the state, but the interests of private persons as well. We pose the goal for the state to pay attention to this problem and make steps in the direction of protection of both personal and state data on the cybernetic level at least.”
Is it technically possible what the Ukrainian activists are writing about, the ones that conduct attacks and not defensive action, for example the blocking of the separatists’ cell phones, their accounts in Internet system? And what is your opinion of such activities?
“It is definitely possible both ways. I cannot say that we approve of it, but if there is war underway against Ukraine, why not resist, this way included?”
Do hacker attacks on Ukrainian services, on their users, continue in the recent weeks?
Quite often. We don’t always know what is happening in various parts of the country and the systems, but in general, yes. We have to admit that many of us here use Russian services: Yandex, mail.ru, Odnoklassniki, Vk and so forth. Essentially, these are both channels of informational leaks and influence, including that on cyberspace. I am not talking about the informational component, that is a different matter, but in this case we are talking about cybernetic problems spcifically, and these attacks do exist. We receive such information periodically from colleagues and acquaintances. It is not always identifiable, it is technically difficult, but it is happening for a fact.
There was a so-called “Cyber Hundred” during Maidan, do you have anything to do with this project?
We have nothing to do with Cyber Hundred, but we know some people from it. For the most part the Cyber Hundred provided Maidan activities, for them to have Internet connections there, informational possibilities, access to computers on Maidan, to the Internet, etc.
Do you maintain communication with some programers, IT specialists in the east, in the ATO zone, do you coordinate your efforts in some way?
Our initiative was organised very recently, and we are currently working in this direction as well, in order to establish contacts in all regions of Ukraine, including the east. In order to on one hand have reliable information about the events there and to make joint efforts to protect ourselves from such attacks. In reality, there are several state organisation in Ukraine, who carry the burden of protection from cyber and informational attacks, and some of these organisations are tied to the SSU. There is a departments with the SSY – TSTZI, they have an ISER departments, which is the one who is supposed to protect state establishments from cybernetic attacks. In light of all of these events it became clear that there is a threat, but to our mind, not enough is being done here. And if we consider that Ukraine has turned a blank page as a state, the state in the face of the government and other bodies of power, essentially, was full of traitors and spies, therefore today everything has to be re-established from zero, everything has to be done anew. When there are citizens working in Ukrainian security establishments which had been citizens of Russia, and then changed their passports for Ukrainian ones, it is difficult to call it otherwise that overt espionage. Accordingly, this, among other things, influences not only operative work, but the informational, cybernetic work as well, this is a fact. We did not invent this, this is not some phobia of Russia, these are reliable, documented facts which nobody hid in the former government.
The current Ukrainian government is aware of your activities? You and other similar groups acting in the Internet, are you in contact with them or acting absolutely autonomously?
We have split our initiative into several stages, and along with the gradual growth of our initiative group, we are planning to begin, starting the end of summer-beginning of September, more systematic contacts in the shape of roundtable talks, conferences, various briefings, with government representatives as well, in order to attract more attention to the problem. Because the state is in some sense defenceless in regard to cyber threats.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina