Ukraine appeals to the hacker community to defend itself against Russia

According to two persons involved in the effort, the Ukrainian government is looking for volunteers from the nation’s hacker community to help safeguard vital infrastructure and carry out cyberespionage operations against Russian troops.

On Thursday morning, when many citizens fled the nation’s capital Kyiv, pleas for volunteers started to appear on hacker forums as Russian soldiers stormed cities throughout Ukraine.

Ukraine’s online community! The post urged hackers and cybersecurity professionals to apply via Google Docs, listing their specialties, such as malware development, and professional references. It read, “It’s time to get involved in the cyber defense of our country.”

Yegor Aushev, a co-founder of a cybersecurity firm in Kyiv, told Reuters that a senior Defense Ministry official asked him to write the post.

Another person directly involved in the effort confirmed that the request came from the Defense Ministry on Thursday morning.

Ukraine Defense Ministry representatives did not respond to a request for comment. A defense attached at Ukraine’s embassy in Washington said he “cannot confirm or deny information from Telegram channels” referring to the mobile messaging platform, and declined further comment.

Aushev said the volunteers would be divided into defensive and offensive cyber units. The defensive unit would be employed to defend infrastructure such as power plants and water systems. In a 2015 cyberattack, widely attributed to Russia state hackers, 225,000 Ukrainians lost electricity.

The offensive volunteer unit Aushev said he is organizing would help Ukraine’s military conduct digital espionage operations against invading Russian forces.

“We have an army inside our country,” Aushev said. “We need to know what they are doing.”

On Wednesday, a newly discovered piece of destructive software was found circulating in Ukraine, hitting hundreds of computers, according to researchers at the cybersecurity firm ESET.

Suspicion fell on Russia, which has repeatedly been accused of hacks against Ukraine and other countries. The victims included government agencies and a financial institution, Reuters previously reported.

Russia has denied the allegations.

The effort to build a cyber military force is coming late in the game, Aushev acknowledged.

A Ukrainian security official said earlier this month that the country had no dedicated military cyber force, the Washington Post reported. “It’s our task to create them this year,” he told the Washington Post.

Reached late Thursday night in Ukraine, Aushev said he already had received hundreds of applicants and was going to begin vetting to ensure that none of them were Russian agents

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