Hacktivists, new and veteran, target Russia with one of cyber’s oldest tools

M, a Ukrainian engineer in his early 20s, is not healthy enough to enlist in the military. So every day, he sits down at his computer to do what he can as part of Ukraine’s IT army, an informal group of volunteer hackers whose job it is to wreak as much havoc on Russian websites as possible. “I try to do whatever I can, whatever I can reach to end the war, to stop it, to stop killing Ukrainian people,” said M, who asked to use only an initial from his first name out of fear for the safety of him and his family. M’s tool is a simple one: Flooding Russian websites with fake web traffic, an old and basic cyberattack more commonly known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS. He can execute it from the computer in his bedroom in Lviv, Ukraine. Though unsophisticated, the DDoS attack has had a renaissance during the opening weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And though the attacks do not tend to do much damage — many websites can either mitigate the attacks or come back online quickly — they’re a way for almost any hacktivist to participate.

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OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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