The Ukrainians have a brilliant secret weapon. This one is on “the digital frontline” of cyberwarfare. His first name is Ihor, last name anonymous. The 30-year-old is a resident of Kyiv, and his day job is for Jooble. That is an international website that helps people “find the job of their dreams”.
Ihor carries around two MacBooks, The Economist reported:
‘One I use for work and the other for attacking Russian websites.’
He met with The Economist journalist at a local cafe. Then, to preserve their security, the two men moved to his own apartment. Ihor is a superhero of sorts. He wears an orange tracksuit:
‘[He dresses like a] superhero in a tracksuit made by a friend to Ihor’s own design [complete with a] triangular chest panel decorated with blue galaxies and red devil horns sewn onto the hood.’
The Washington Post Editor David Ignatius wrote in his opinion piece:
‘A quiet partnership of the world’s biggest technology companies, U.S. and NATO intelligence agencies, and Ukraine’s own nimble army of hackers has pulled off one of the surprises of the war with Russia, largely foiling the Kremlin’s brazen internet hacking operations.’
Ukraine’s history of hacking crimes began two decades ago. But now, that knowledge has been a strong part of its defense against the Russians. After eight years of war against Russia and its proxies, Ukraine has become expert at cyberwar:
‘Given Russia’s dependence on Western technology, even for its cyberattacks, Ukraine could backfire on the Kremlin in ways that persist for years. The longer the conflict lasts, the less effective Russia’s vaunted cyber capability will likely become.’
Ihov is not unlike another Ukrainian hacker, Igor Popov. He first appeared at the U.S. embassy in London speaking Russian in 2001, WIRED reported:
‘[H]e was a hacker, part of an Eastern European gang that had been raiding US companies and carrying out extortion and fraud. A wave of such attacks was portending a new kind of cold war, between the US and organized criminals in the former Soviet bloc…Popov was about to become the conflict’s first defector.’
U.S. intelligence official told Sky News that America is involved in a cyber operations offensive to support Ukraine. Head of the National Security Agency General Paul Nakasone is “also the chief of the Pentagon’s digital branch, the U.S Cyber Command, according to NPR:’
‘My job is to provide a series of options to the secretary of defense and the president, and so that’s what I do.’
Microsoft head of Customer Security and Trust Tom Burt said:
‘So it’s commonly believed that the invasion of Ukraine started on February 24th. But from our viewpoint, it really started on February 23rd, about 10 hours before the missiles were launched and the tanks rolled across the border. There was a huge wiper attack across 300 different systems in government agencies and private sector companies in Ukraine.’
Ukrainian cybersecurity officials constantly faced “communication outages, which they linked to Russia:”
‘It is not the first attempt to make it impossible for Ukrainian citizens in the temporarily occupied areas to get in touch with their loved ones, call an ambulance or rescuers, access the true information on the developments in the war and the situation in the country.
‘If you are Ukrainian, this has been a relentless, unending cyber war that has been launched in correspondence with the physical war in what is clearly the world’s first major hybrid war.’
Popov is in his early 40’s now, but he began when he was 20 years old. It took the FBI four months of calls and two meetings at the embassy before Popov, a 20-year-old hacker was ready. In the morning, he and an “FBI escort boarded a TWA flight to the US.”
He left an international cyberwar hacking gang. But he had a plan:
‘[H]e would reinvent himself by selling his computer security expertise to the government for a decent salary, then transition to an Internet startup and make himself wealthy.’
However, the FBI had a different idea:
‘[It] hrew Popov in an isolation room, then returned an hour later with a federal prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a take-it-or-leave-it offer: Popov was going to be their informant, working all day, every day, to lure his crime partners into an FBI trap. If he refused, he’d go to prison.’
He planned on warning his coworkers and used some “Russian colloquialism to warn his associates” about the sting. It took several months for the FBI to catch onto his ruse. But one agent in California believed America needed Popov:
‘Hacking had been “a reactional sport” in America, but it was about to go underground in Eastern Europe.’
Popov said in his video to lure a Russian hacker:
‘The dough is fu**ing real, So call your mob, and let us settle this business.’
Popov knew his Russian subjects well:
‘All they really wanted was a job.’
A Russian hacker gang had delved into the FBI’s old network links along with other government agencies and corporations. AT&T’s data center was even breached. Popov was the one who found and reported it to the FBI.
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