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But over the past decade and a half, Moscow’s leash on Ukraine has frayed, as popular support in the country has pulled toward NATO and the European Union.In 2004, Ukrainian crowds in orange scarves flooded the streets to protest Moscow’s rigging of the country’s elections; that year, Russian agents allegedly went so far as to poison the surging pro-Western presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.Each blackout lasted a matter of hours, only as long as it took for scrambling engineers to manually switch the power on again.But as proofs of concept, the attacks set a new precedent: In Russia’s shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality. They were part of a digital blitzkrieg that has pummeled Ukraine for the past three years—a sustained cyberassault unlike any the world has ever seen.
From the beginning, one of this war’s major fronts has been digital.
“You can’t really find a space in Ukraine where there In a public statement in December, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, reported that there had been 6,500 cyberattacks on 36 Ukrainian targets in just the previous two months.
International cybersecurity analysts have stopped just short of conclusively attributing these attacks to the Kremlin, but Poroshenko didn’t hesitate: Ukraine’s investigations, he said, point to the “direct or indirect involvement of secret services of Russia, which have unleashed a cyberwar against our country.” (The Russian foreign ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.)To grasp the significance of these assaults—and, for that matter, to digest much of what’s going on in today’s larger geopolitical disorder—it helps to understand Russia’s uniquely abusive relationship with its largest neighbor to the west.
A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy.
Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralyzed organizations’ most basic functions.
It was a Saturday night last December, and Oleksii Yasinsky was sitting on the couch with his wife and teenage son in the living room of their Kiev apartment.