hacker collective declares “cyber war” on Russia

The activist hacker group Anonymous has officially launched a “cyber war” against the Russian administration. Will they manage to have a real impact beyond the simple symbol?

Difficult, these last days, to ignore the situation in Ukraine. The country is currently the subject of a large-scale Russian offensive, despite all the international agreements in force. The Kremlin’s behavior has been denounced by much of the international community; but while waiting for new concrete reactions after the first waves of sanctions, other actors have entered the dance. The group Anonymous has brought out its famous Guy Fawkes masks and declared “cyber war” in the country of Vladimir Putin.

As a reminder, this is a small group of “hacktivists”, a contraction between the words “hacker” (“computer hacker” in English) and “activist”, in reference to their very political positions. They have already distinguished themselves by actions directed against the Islamic State or the Ku Klux Klan; they have also taken a stand against governments like that of Donald Trump or in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Russia Today targeted by masked hackers

Shortly after this formalization, the collective attacked Russia Today. It is one of the main communications outlets controlled by the Russian government internationally. The chain was targeted by a large-scale DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. This is an attack that aims to completely paralyze the target network; to do this, the attacker tries to flood it with superfluous requests. This step is often carried out using an army of “zombie” computers (we then speak of a botnet).

And the Anonymous seem to have achieved their ends since the RT website ended up falling under the battering of hackers. However, it is an act that remains relatively symbolic and has no real strategic significance. A few minutes after the incident, RT’s servers were up again, as if nothing had happened.

A cyber-war that goes well beyond Anonymous

But it was probably just a warning shot. In any case, this is the opinion of security expert Robert Potter interviewed by ABC News; he considers that we could very soon see more “cyber activism” from Anonymous. It will therefore be interesting to observe if these future offensives will go beyond the stage of a simple symbol on a small scale, and if they will manage to on a par with their Russian counterparts.

Because beyond the marginal action of this very media groupit’s a real war in due form rages in cyberspace at the same time as on Ukrainian soil. And some of the actors involved are far more threatening than the masked activists. Indeed, Russia is far from being a novice when it comes to cybersecurity. Several small groups of Russian pirates are among the best known players in this field; some are also suspected of being militarized by the Kremlin.

In mid-January, Ukraine also claimed that it had been targeted by a large-scale Russian cyberattack. This would have targeted government sites. A senior US official also suggested that the Kremlin would consider embarking on a veritable cyber-blitzkrieg should the international community intervene in Ukraine. A possibility that could be part of the “never-before-seen consequences” promised by Vladimir Putin to members of the international community who “would attempt to interfere“.

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