Tech and The Fog of War

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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Tech and The Fog of War
In the present conflict between Ukraine and Russia, modern warfare has split into what is termed kinetic battles and digital battles. Kinetic battles are actual, physical confrontations. Digital battles are fought on the internet. Microsoft has defined areas of conflict in the digital war raging between Ukraine and Russia. The areas include “protecting Ukraine from cyberattacks; protection from state-sponsored disinformation campaigns; and support for humanitarian assistance. Cyberattacks On February 24, a few hours before the initial attacks on Ukraine, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center detected a new malware package they named FoxBlade. A range of targets including military institutions, government agencies and manufacturers were reported among essential services of Ukraine’s digital infrastructure. What FoxBlade is designed to do is enable a DDoS…a distributed denial of service attack. This affects the availability of a targeted system by flooding it with so much fake traffic the site is overcome and shuts down. Thankfully, Microsoft reports, “Within three hours of this discovery, signatures to detect this new exploit had been written and added to our Defender anti-malware service, helping to defend against this new threat” Russia also launched recent cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilian digital targets, including the financial sector, agriculture sector, emergency response services, humanitarian aid efforts, and energy sector organizations and enterprises. Microsoft said “These attacks on civilian targets raise serious concerns under the Geneva Convention, and we have shared information with the Ukrainian government about each of them. We have also advised the Ukrainian government about recent cyber efforts to steal a wide range of data, including health, insurance, and transportation-related personally identifiable information (PII), as well as other government data sets.” The modern reliance on computer-controlled facilities makes any country vulnerable to cyber warfare. This includes threats from malware and electro- magnetic pulses (EMPs) that are able to fry our infrastructure in a flash. Imagine the disruption of electrical grids, water delivery systems, banking systems, mobile networks, medical care (no access to charts—it happened in Ireland), transportation, communications, sewer systems, dams, supply chains, etc…whew! You couldn’t pump gas, check out at a store, get money from an ATM or bank and so on. Cyber-attacks are real, and they have been practiced many times here in the U.S. already. State Sponsored Disinformation Campaigns According to the Voice of America, “from Russia’s Vladimir Putin saying the invasion was needed to ‘de-nazify’ Ukraine, to posts claiming Ukrainian forces were placing explosives under their own buildings, a barrage of disinformation has been swirling on social media, websites, messaging platforms like Telegram and Viber, and even TV. Left unchecked, these posts and propaganda can sow confusion or even sway public opinion.” Putin uses state-sponsored disinformation campaigns to justify his invasion of Ukraine. He also uses disinformation to lie to his own people about how Russia is ‘saving’ Ukraine, what the extent of casualties is and to promote a belief in battlefield successes. He especially uses falsehoods to create a pretext for military action, and to create confusion and chaos in kinetic situations, obfuscating the truth of who is accountable for some of the terrible atrocities that occur to innocent civilians. Ukrainians, international journalists, and citizen-journalists have bravely and fiercely countered Putin’s disinformation by publishing live videos and heart-wrenching photos as evidence of Russia’s cyber lies. As of now, the Ukrainians are winning the information war as the whole world watches the debacle take place in real time and unites in condemning Russia. There is even major dissent within Russia, itself. Thousands of its own citizens have been arrested demonstrating against Putin’s invasion and media outlets have been shut down. Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to remove Russian and Belarusian disinformation, or label it as such. Google has shut down access to Google Maps. Elon Musk announced the activation of Starlink internet service in Ukraine as the country suffered power outages and gaps in internet service due to Russia’s invasion. The eastern European cyber-elves are working around the clock to counter Russian disinformation attempts. Putin has lost control of the narrative at this point. Humanitarian Assistance Donations are pouring into Ukraine from all around the world. According to AP News, “Cryptocurrency donations have emerged as a leading form of aid.” This is the first time we are seeing public efforts to raise funds through crypto. The punk Russian group Pussy Riot, previously jailed by Putin, raised 2,258 ether, equivalent to $6.7 million dollars which was donated to the Ukrainian organization, Come Back Alive. Supply chain deliveries have been disrupted by Russian forces on the ground, so organizations are creating crowd-sourcing delivery systems and volunteers using private vehicles to bring supplies from Poland into Ukraine. Airbnb has a grassroots movement of people booking stays in Ukrainian homes, with no plans of using them to get money quickly into the accounts of hosts. In Poland, tens of thousands of people have signed up for social media groups including “Ukraine, I’m helping you!” and “Host a Sister” offering their homes, money and carpools to Ukrainians seeking refuge. Free online medical consults are available. The world has rallied around Ukraine through the internet. Caveat: Where there is good, there are those who distort and exploit. Be careful to whom you donate. Check out where your donation is going with organizations like Charity Watch ( The Fog of War Disinformation is not new. Propaganda is not new. The very best defense against cyber war is good critical thinking skills. LOGIC SHOULD BE A REQUIRED COURSE FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS! Children should be taught to recognize fallacies and fallacious thinking as early and thoroughly as possible. At a time when it is difficult to trust information given to us, critical thinking skills are….well….critical! Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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March 18, 2022