Ukraine’s Cyber-War Shows Us the Future

This piece was originally published on Substack.


A 19-year-old computer hacker invited me into his home in Lviv, Ukraine, ready to show off his weaponry: three large monitors from which he coordinated cyber-attacks into Russia’s increasingly closed-off internet. It was March 2022, and he wanted to strike back at Russia’s opening missile salvos. But he didn’t want to scare his parents by heading to the front lines with an assault rifle. So he signed up for Ukraine’s “IT Army” of computer nerds instead.

Amid the sound of air raid sirens and the occasional thud and rattle of distant missile strikes, the teenager proudly showed me his work defacing Russian websites, posting Ukrainian flags and targeting Russian government systems.

“I learned hacking on Google and Wikihow,” he explained. “It was pretty easy. It took a couple weeks.”

The ease with which he launched cyber-attacks was cause for hope, but also worry. Hope, because his work signaled that Ukraine was prepared. Early in the war, hackers had infected Ukrainian government networks with malware that had the ability to erase hard drives, infected supply chains for future attacks on Ukraine and NATO, and disrupted a satellite broadband internet provider. The resulting outages spread to other parts of Europe. In April, Ukraine fought off a massive cyber-attack on the power grid that could have shut down electricity, incited chaos, and ended with a colossal Russian military advance.

Click here to read the full piece on Substack.

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