Russia has some of the world's best hackers, but in the early days of the war in Ukraine, its ability to create mayhem through malware hasn’t had much of a noticeable impact, the Associated Press reports. Instead, it’s Ukraine that’s marshalled sympathetic volunteer hackers in an unprecedented collective global effort to make the Kremlin pay for making war on its neighbor. It’s a kind of cyber free-for-all that experts say risks escalating a moment fraught with extraordinary danger after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on alert. So far, Ukraine’s internet mostly works, its president still able to rally global support via a smartphone, and its power plants and other critical infrastructure still able to function. It’s not clear why Russia hasn’t landed a more powerful cyber punch. Russia might have determined that the impact wouldn’t be serious enough. Ukraine’s industrial base is far less digitized than in Western nations. Russia might have determined that it couldn’t do serious harm to Ukraine without risking collateral impact outside its borders.
Before the invasion, hackers knocked offline or defaced Ukrainian government websites and wiped some servers with destructive malware. Now, an ad hoc army of hackers — some marshaled online by Ukraine’s SBU security service — are claiming credit for takedowns and defacements of Russian government and media sites. A volunteer group calling itself the IT Army of Ukraine has more than 230,000 followers on a Telegram channel and is constantly listing targets for hackers to hit, like Russian banks and cryptocurrency exchanges. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far ... that Russia has not launched more major cyberattacks against Ukraine,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said Monday. “Do I expect Russia to up its game on cyber? Absolutely.”