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Ukraine’s war year exposes the changing role of cyber weapons

On the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, Ukraine commemorates horrific losses – and remarkable resistance.

The country’s fierce resistance on the battlefield is reflected on the digital front, where Kiev has a unique experience. The conflict with Russia has become the world’s first all-out cyber war, other than Ukraine was a test bed for digital weapons long before the February 24, 2022 invasion. Since Putin’s troops flooded the border, cyber tactics have changed dramatically.

These developments have made Ukraine a benchmark for digital warfare. And to analysts’ surprise, cyberattacks have had limited impact over the past year.

“We are going to see cyberactivity as a pre-emptive tactic for physical war.

Leading up to the invasion, cyber-attacks were prominent. On February 15, Russian hackers launched the most powerful DDoS attack in the history of Ukraine. A day before the large-scale invasion, several government and banking websites were hit again.

But in the months that followed, reports of major cyberattacks dropped. Zakary WarrenChief Security Advisor EMEA at Tanium and regular adviser to NATO, sees this as a harbinger of digital warfare.

“In the future, we’re going to see cyberactivity as a preemptive tactic for physical war … it’s a tool to weaken a target before it moves in,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government of Ukraine claims that Russia’s goals have changed. In a January report, security officials said the cyberattacks initially targeted Ukraine’s communications arm, which aimed to disrupt military and government operations. But after Russia’s first defeat at the front, the focus shifted to maximizing damage to civilians.

In particular, the officials thought so all attacks had used previously known techniques.

“The attacks used by Russia have long been categorized and have clear solutions to counter,” the report’s authors said.

Infographic with a cyber overview of the conflict in 2022