Ukraine Says Digital Battlefield Is Key to Winning War With Russia

From a Wall Street Journal story by Isabelle Bousqette headlined “Ukraine Official Says Digital Battlefield Is Key to War With Russia”:

Ukraine is working to keep its digital infrastructure up and running in the midst of the war with Russia while combating disinformation and cyberattacks, said Oleksandr Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation.

Mr. Bornyakov appeared at a virtual event hosted by artificial intelligence company Collective[i] to talk about the role of technology and information in the war.

“There were two years of Covid events, and we learned how to work remotely and moved a lot of infrastructure to the cloud, so we kind of were ready if something like that happened,” Mr. Bornyakov said. “Then again, I don’t think you can be ready for events like that when your hometown and most of the country is being attacked.”

The lead-up to Russia’s invasion

[Before the war,] we were building a digital state, we were building the most convenient government services in the world, and we were focusing on different tasks. We were building one of the biggest—actually the biggest—[information-technology] hub in Eastern Europe…. Back then, we were focused on creating something.

The resiliency of Ukraine’s IT infrastructure

Most of the infrastructure in Ukraine is working. I mean, communication is working, TV’s working, government services are working. You can conduct business, you can pay taxes, you can go to the bank. The payment system is working. So they were not able to disrupt massively anything.

Elon Musk responded to us and activated Starlink in Ukraine. So far, we’ve received around 1,500 satellite receivers and there’s supposed to be like 5,000 more. So once we have them, we’ll just put them around the country to ensure that even if they break the cell towers or they somehow cut the landlines, we’ll still be able to communicate.

Combating Russian misinformation and disinformation

We decided to reach out to [Russian people] through the internet with actually specific messages. First of all, [the Russian government was] denying that this is a war. They were saying this is a special operation. So we targeted a campaign and we did a campaign to tell Russian people this is war. Second, they were denying that there are casualties, there are dead soldiers in Ukraine. So we decided to show pictures and names of the dead soldiers in Russian media. I mean, over the internet, of course. We can’t reach their TV. That’s impossible.

And those campaigns were successful because, first of all, some of the Russian opposition started to talk about this as war. Second, they eventually said that there are casualties, dead people.

Ukraine’s “IT Army”

We’ve created an IT army, which was joined by 200,000 people and those individuals that wanted to help Ukraine to fight against Russia. So on the first day, we completely took down the Kremlin website, their stock exchange web services, their government services portal was down and there’s so much more still down. And it turns out, they were not ready.

We’ve been attacked for eight years. And I can compare this withMicrosoft Windows, because so many hackers wanted to break Microsoft Windows for so many years, so eventually they built the most protected operating system—you can’t just penetrate it because they had so much experience in protecting their system. So I think a very similar thing happened with Ukrainian cyber infrastructure.

Cutting Russia off from the digital economy

Hundreds of companies have left Russia, and our ultimate goal—we were asking Visa and Mastercard and then they eventually left—but now we think our top priority is to block the [ Apple Inc. ] App Store and Google Play from Russia completely.

A lot of Russian citizens think that this is OK to send the army into another country. So we wanted to show them that it won’t happen without consequences.


Speak Your Mind