The importance of cybersecurity in modern-day warfare
March 15, 2022
Table of contents
On February 24, war broke out in eastern Europe after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. It was news that shocked everyone but at the same time - united the world to help Ukraine fight for its freedom. Alongside the military actions, cyberwarfare has been used to weaken and mislead the local people fighting for their lives.
What is cyber warfare, and attacks on Ukraine
Cyberwarfare is a cyberattack or series of it that targets a country. Its purpose is to destroy or disrupt civilian and governmental infrastructure and other critical systems, causing damage to the state and its people. To achieve this, a wide range of tools and techniques can be used, such as espionage, sabotage, hacking, terrorism, propaganda attacks, and more.
On February 23, Ukraine, international cybersecurity researchers at security company ESET registered a series of "wiper" attacks on local computers to make them inoperable. Later, computer systems at various Ukrainian ministries, government organizations, and banks experienced DDoS or denial of service, flooding their servers with requests so that their websites stopped working. Later on, the EU announced a cyber rapid-response team (CRRT) being deployed across the continent to help deal with the cyber incidents.
Cyber education and other helpful action
With the growing numbers of incidents and spread of disinformation, our team efforts will be dedicated to helping people and organizations to be aware of the threats and protect themselves better online. Our community also acted in the following ways:
- We have donated 700 Nord Security products for human right activists, NGOs, and independent journalists so far. The aim was to help people spread and access credible information from global media and share the information from the place of unrest. The donations are ongoing and available for people and organizations in need.
- Nord Security Business products are discontinuing their services for clients located in Russia and no longer accepting payments from Russian banks.
- NordVPN, together with other members of the VPN Trust Initiative, has actively taken steps to help VPN users by providing free VPN service to NGOs, journalists, and other vulnerable, as well as ensuring access to Russian people who want to circumvent state propaganda and severing business relations with Russian infrastructure providers without impacting user access.
- Almost 300 members of our community became volunteers. Experts chose to join different movements and organizations helping to support and strengthen Ukraine's position in the current situation.
- All Nord Security products actively support NGOs providing assistance and funds for Ukraine. We’ll continue to be proactive in our approach to support people during the war in Ukraine.
The war of information
With the war brewing on the Ukrainian ground and online, Russia's also attacking on the information front. Most of the propaganda has been heavily concentrated on Russian citizens. However, paired with cyber and physical attacks on communication towers and infrastructure, Russians also managed to spread fake news in Ukraine and the world. Therefore, it's important to know the tell-tale sign on how to separate and filter fake news from facts.
Disinformation, misinformation, or propaganda?
Disinformation is information that's been purposively created to deceive and mislead people. If paired and used to promote one's political view, it's called propaganda.
Disinformation usually has a sensational/clickbait headline designed to get your attention and make you click. Usually, it's followed by emotionally stimulating content, playing your fear, empathy, challenging your common knowledge, and urging to get a response out of you. In many cases, people respond by sharing the content with someone without knowing that it's fake. This action then turns the content into misinformation, meaning that you spread false information without the intent to deceive someone. However, even if you didn't know that the information you shared wasn't truthful, the damage is already done as it will probably be shared by someone else and mislead people further.
How to spot fake news and what to look for:
1. Check the source or the owner's account if the information came from social media. First, take a look at the webpage - does it look legitimate? Are there "About us" and "Contact" sections included on the webpage? If so, make sure to double-check the details of the source provided on Google. If the news has been posted on social media - check for discrepancies on the owner's profile. Does it have activity, photos, and details of a real person? If not, then the chances are that it's a fake created to spread disinformation.
2. Take a closer look at the domain - do you notice anything unusual? For example, a domain like fakenews.org.co has an unusual top-level domain "org.co". Other tell-tale signs are suspicious punctuation, spelling mistakes, imitating or misspelling well-known media sources (also known as typosquatting), e.g., Goggle.com instead of Google.com. All of these are the signs that the website you're on might not be legitimate.
3. Google credible sources to see if trusted independent media have covered the news. If the news is truly groundbreaking, it's a high chance that other media channels have already broadcasted the information.
4. Pay attention to grammar, style, and quotes. Misspelled words, too many exclamation marks, or unprofessional writing are all signs that the information you're reading wasn't written by a media professional. Also, another red flag is the absence of quotes by experts and trusted figures, meaning that all the content was presented from one point of view without any supporting arguments.
5. Do some fact-checking. There is a number of public and trusted sites available to check the information you're reading. If you see that something doesn't add up, make sure to run the information here:
Most importantly, be vigilant and keep your critical mind working - don't let emotional responses dictate your actions online, take steps to educate and protect yourself. The current events shed light on how important it is to take care of cybersecurity for organizations and individuals. Therefore, we plan to continue our work of spreading awareness and providing guidance to people about online security, and supporting the people of Ukraine.