Thursday evening, the Anonymous collective declared a cyberwar against Russia as Putin's forces closed in on the Ukrainian capital. And it looks like they were serious.
On Friday evening, Anonymous claimed they managed to breach the database belonging to the Russian Ministry of Defence. The group's actions appear to be part of a growing trend that is seeing a growing number of cyber soldiers take to the newest front in the war against Russia.
Anonymous posted the database online and made it accessible to anyone. "Hackers all around the world: target Russia in the name of #Anonymous let them know we do not forgive, we do not forget. Anonymous owns fascists, always," the group tweeted.
It seems that the database contains officials' phone numbers, emails, and passwords. Twitter users seem excited about the news and continue discussing how they could use them to harm Putin's regime.
"Sign them up for GOP and Trump fundraising emails. That will be enough to drive them all crazy," one user suggested.
Many encouraged each other to send spam and malware to Russians. The original tweet announcing the leak and containing the link to the database was taken down because it "violated the Twitter Rules". Anonymous updated their tweet by removing the link.
Many activists took Ukraine's calls on the hacker underground to defend against Russia to heart. Earlier today, Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down Russia's most prominent websites used to spread Kremlin propaganda. Even Pornhub had its say by blocking Russian users and greeting them with the Ukrainian flag and a message of support.
Such actions represent an escalation in cyberwarfare, prompted by Vladimir Putin's shocking decision to launch a full-scale attack on Ukraine this week. Cybersecurity analysts are predicting an upsurge in defense spending across Europe for both digital and conventional warfare, while patriotic or idealistic hackers sympathetic to either side are also mobilizing.
Cybersecurity firms such as disBalancer and Hacken have set up an app that can be easily downloaded, which they say allows people to conduct cyberattacks against Russian sites, while another anonymous group has developed a website tool that allows anyone with an internet connection to participate in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Putin's regime.
Given NATO's apparent reluctance to get involved directly in the fighting in Ukraine for fear of escalating to total - and possibly nuclear - war, it is perhaps unsurprising that the wider European conflict is being more aggressively prosecuted by digital means.
To that end, Russia has also opened a cyber front. Ukraine's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) said the hackers were using password-stealing emails to break into Ukrainian soldiers' email accounts and using the compromised address books to send further malicious messages.
According to Reuters, a Russia-based cybercrime group Conti, known for using ransomware to extort millions of dollars from US and European companies, vowed on Friday to attack enemies of the Kremlin if they respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
And recently, the BBC reported that reputable cybersecurity analysts in Russia are turning 'rogue' by night, assembling their teams to conduct patriotic hacking attacks against enemies of the Kremlin. "I want to help beat Ukraine from my computer," one such actor told the BBC recently, after he and his team conducted DDos attacks on Ukrainian government websites.
In a blog post, the Conti group said it was announcing its "full support" for the government of President Vladimir Putin.
"If anybody will decide to organize a cyberattack or any war activities against Russia, we are going to use our all possible resources to strike back at the critical infrastructures of an enemy," the Conti blog post read.
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