Report: Ukraine calls for volunteer hackers to protect critical infrastructure

The country is reportedly asking volunteers to join digital defensive and surveillance missions.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The government of Ukraine has reportedly sent out a call for volunteers with hacking skills to help protect the country's critical infrastructure. 

On February 24, Reuters reported that notices backed by the government have appeared on online forums. 

Yegor Aushev, the co-founder of Cyber Unit Technologies and a figure known in Ukrainian circles for promoting the development of ethical hacking, told the news agency that he wrote the post following a request from a senior Defense Ministry official.

Another individual involved in the scheme confirmed to the publication that the request was issued on Thursday morning as Russia began to invade Ukraine. 

The post read, "Ukrainian cybercommunity! It's time to get involved in the cyber defense of our country."

Aushev told Reuters that after applying to help through a Google document that also requires skills to be listed, volunteers would be divided into "defensive and offensive" teams. 

Defensive volunteers would focus on protecting critical assets, including energy and water utilities, whereas offensive groups would be asked to help Ukraine's military with cyberespionage and monitoring invading forces. 

Ukraine experienced a cyberattack against its power grid in 2015, causing hundreds of thousands of Kyiv residents to lose access to electricity for roughly an hour. It is believed that Russian cyberattackers were behind the assault. 

Also: Industroyer: An in-depth look at the culprit behind Ukraine's power grid blackout

On February 23, Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection said that a number of government websites experienced outages due to a wave of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Websites impacted reportedly included the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Internal Affairs. Wiper malware was also discovered.

Microsoft previously warned that multiple organizations in Ukraine had been targeted with destructive malware. 

NetBlocks reported on February 24 that Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, has experienced "network and telecoms disruptions, leaving many users cut off" from services.

When approached by Reuters, the Ukraine Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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