Even before Russia’s military attacks escalated to the current intensity and force of destruction on land, Ukraine was already the target of rival actions in cyberspace. The so-called cyber warfare, which has been definitively consolidated with the current conflict, goes far beyond tanks and missiles. Hackers are now an integral part of the offensive between countries aiming the generation of psychological shocks to the population around the world.
Activist groups such as Anonymous , have announced their intention to focus attacks on Russian services, websites, and resources. An informal army of about 300,000 hackers volunteered to support Ukraine in the cyberwar against Russia and there are reports that a group recruited by the Ukrainian government, called the IT Army, has mobilized in the Telegram messaging service to orchestrate attacks on the Russian government and media sites.
An important aspect of this war is the interaction between traditional media and new channels of communication. We move away from a relatively static communication model, in which journalists report news within certain limits and formats, to intense coverage, with the transmission of a profusion of information and images that are shared online by millions of people at all times.
Modern Warfare and Media
Modern warfare and media technologies have a long and complex history. During World War I, planes served as weapons and media, taking aerial photographs, and launching propaganda pamphlets over enemy lines. Soldiers even used their personal cameras in the early months of the war, until political and military leaders banned such practices.
During World War II, each division of the German army had its team of cinematographers to film the fighting. In 1943, thousands of soldiers participated in the filming of Kolberg, a propaganda film.
The Vietnam War is often considered the first uncensored war by some media scholars. In the 1991 Gulf War, 24-hour cable news coverage broadcasted images provided by the military, which were soon questioned by those on the front. Some war journalists coined the expression Nintendo War, for showing an idealized image of the conflict. Since then, media involvement in wars has increased in speed and fragmentation.
Cyberwarfare is a key component in the current war between Russia and Ukraine. A considerable part of the strategy on both sides is through the internet and the infrastructure that supports it. Drones can capture huge datasets for analysis by artificial intelligence that can direct actions and identify the location of soldiers or civilians by heat maps, digital signals, or social media posts. Just as images can be directed or edited.
Many historical propaganda techniques extend to cyberspace, but a new emerging extension is the means of directing and personalizing disinformation. Aggressive military propaganda techniques are combined with online marketing tools.
Official TV channels in Russia broadcast a version of the events that corroborate the country’s narrative of the conflict. Including the ban on the use of words like war and invasion. The images support the view that the Russian military is liberating Ukraine from neo-Nazis and radicals.
Accusations of forgery, propaganda, and censorship have always been part of the war, but the cyber conflict includes additional complexities. The intensive and rapid dissemination of false and truthful information, the quantities and types of data collected, and the extensive and real-time documentation of events reveal the integration of information and communication into all aspects of warfare.