A look at how hackers are trying to disrupt Russia in Ukraine

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As the war in Ukraine continues, many tech-savvy hackers are finding ways to help by joining the world of cyber warfare.

“It’s a frontline, and you may not be shooting a gun, but you’re engaging in what would amount to cyber warfare,” said Andrew Carr, a recognized cybersecurity expert and director of programs at graduate studies at the University of Utica.

Miles from where Ukraine is fighting off Russian invaders, the hacker community around the world is trying to help.

Much of the effort is conducted through distributed denial of service attacks, or DDOSing.

“Essentially, the idea is to flood a particular computer system with a lot of information so that it can’t perform its intended function,” Carr said. “If it’s overwhelmed with all this misinformation, it can’t communicate with other systems and it’s basically a dead box at this point.”

He explained how attacks come in handy.

“They’re trying to perform these attacks on known Russian infrastructure in order to limit or shut down their ability to distribute propaganda media or conduct battlefield communications, or whatever,” Carr said.

Some of the hacker community missions need to think outside the box a bit to be effective.

“Take over review sites to post war updates instead of restaurant reviews0 so they can bypass the social media filters the Russian government uses,” Carr said.

Spectrum News 1 reached out to some members of the hacker community, but Carr explained why reporters don’t often see or hear about them.

“Plain and simple, it’s not something that would generally be OK. Given the situation in Ukraine and given what Russia is doing, it’s one of those where sometimes the end justifies the means” Carr said, “And I think our government will probably look the other way on that.”

So an ocean away, why go against the law? Take a risk by attacking Russia?

“Everyone agrees that what Putin is doing is heinous, and if he wants to keep trying to impose his fascism in the modern era,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous. “The rest of the world will use modern advancements to stop it.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered to help with the effort, and sometimes it can get chaotic and counterproductive, but they say it’s essential.

“However, there are more advanced individuals who get involved in more invasive attacks to break into Russian systems, steal information and try to track down some counterintelligence,” Carr said. “So it depends on their skill level. But I think everyone who has joined in trying to help has good intentions.

It is also essential that those who intervene know exactly what they are facing. Russia has cyber defense and countermeasures that are just as powerful as attack capabilities.

“Maybe they’re using the telegram account they already had linked to them. Maybe they’re using a username that can be easily identified with another username they’re using on something else,” he said. “If people don’t understand that there are probably Russians embedded in this Telegram conversation, they’re wrong.”

It’s not without risk, but Carr thinks it’s essential.

“I think we basically have to stop them, at all costs. We can’t let this continue,” Carr said. “It’s grotesque and we have to do what we can to prevent it from happening.”

For now, the front lines are raging, on the ground and in the clouds..

“It’s always war right behind a computer, rather than behind the gun,” Carr said.

With his official capacity at the University of Utica, Carr said he will not participate in attacks, but will monitor them and encourage the effort.

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