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Ukraine's tech diaspora to cybersecurity firms: drop Russian clients

Ukrainians in Western tech firms urge companies to help their homeland by knocking down disinformation websites.

Techies of Ukrainian heritage band together in email campaigns and online petitions in an effort to convince businesses to sever ties with Russia.

"Companies should try to isolate Russia as much as possible, as soon as possible. Sanctions are not enough," Olexiy Oryeshko, a staff software engineer at Google and a Ukrainian American, told Reuters.

The plea for help is aimed at internet security companies Cloudflare, Alphabet, Amazon, and others. After Russia invaded Ukraine last week, the Ukrainian government asked for volunteers to join an "IT army,"

According to Reuters, the Ukrainian diaspora is appealing to cybersecurity companies, particularly asking to drop Russian clients, especially publishers that spread disinformation.

Cyber activists have already targeted Russian state-controlled media outlets TASS, Kommersant, Izvestia, Fontanka, and RBC, pushing them offline.

"Given that even Switzerland took sides, I think it would be an important statement if Cloudflare would do the same," Igor Seletskiy, chief executive of Palo Alto-based software maker CloudLinux, told Reuters.

Cloudflare has already terminated some clients due to sanctions. However, the company claims to be proceeding cautiously not to jeopardize customer security.

According to Ukrainian officials, the "IT Army" has a quarter of a million people helping Ukraine reach Russian citizens, some of whom are still unaware that their country is waging a full-scale war against Ukraine.

Rallying behind Ukraine

Tech companies did not turn a blind eye to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. For example, Facebook owner Meta has barred the Belarusian-backed hacking collective Ghostwriter from its social media platforms.

SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk sent a batch of Starlink equipment to Ukraine once prompted by Mykhailo Fedorov, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.

Brad Smith, the company's President & Vice Chair of Microsoft, said the company would help fight against disinformation and support the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an organization helping civilians.

Andy Yen, founder and CEO of ProtonMail and ProtonVPN said he would be donating 10% of the company's income to Ukrainians.

The Co-Founder of NordSecurity, Tom Okman, said he would be contacting DigiCert, GeoTrust, Let's Encrypt, Cloudflare with a request to revoke certificates for all top Russian banks, fake news media outlets, government certificates, and SQL servers.

Amazon's CEO Andy Jassy said on Twitter that the company uses its logistics capability to get supplies to those in need and cybersecurity expertise to help governments and companies as part of its support for Ukraine.

Earlier, Amazon pledged to donate up to $10 million for humanitarian efforts.

Russian invasion

On the night of February 24, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. In light of the attack, the hacker community started rallying to help Ukrainians.

With Anonymous being the most prominent one, numerous hacker groups and researchers partake in various campaigns to help Ukraine.

An unknown group has set up a website tool that allows people to participate in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Russian websites that it claims are spreading disinformation.

Additionally, cybersecurity firms are urging ordinary civilians to join the cyberwar by means of an app that allows them to attack Russian websites spreading disinformation.

Hackers claim to have breached numerous Russian state organizations, including Russia's state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom and the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

According to the United Nations, over 1 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring counties. Ukrainian officials claim the Russian invasion has already claimed 2,000 civilian lives.

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