What we are witnessing from a digital warfare perspective between the Anonymous Collective and Russia is something unprecedented. We haven’t seen anything like this in the history of conflicts. It is a multi-dimensional assault on Russia and as we’ve seen them fall short of military objectives and goals, it is safe to bet that Anonymous and the collective’s approach and results have had an impact in this conflict.
Furthermore, it is also putting other world powers in a precipitous position because how are they to respond? If they tout the efforts of Anonymous are they endorsing cyber warfare? Are they endorsing Anonymous? Are they setting themselves up for an invitation to experience similar threats in the future if they get involved in a military conflict? The Anonymous Collective is impacting this Russia-Ukraine war. One could argue the results are saving lives for the Ukrainians. On the flip side, one could argue that is also causing more deaths and troop casualties on the part of Russia. All of this is fascinating to see unfold. And we’re paying close attention to what has happened in that regard.
A Timeline Of Events Between Anonymous VS Russia
Before we get to the details of Anonymous’ cyber attacks on Russia, who are they? Here’s an Anonymous 101 crash course. Anonymous is an internet group of cyber activists and hackers that started as a “collective” in the early 2000s. Their mission is to wage cyberwar against oppression and corruption by targeting institutions, organizations, and governments. A popular symbol of those wanting to be part of this group (or who are) is signified by wearing a Guy Fawkes mask (they do this in public and on videos).
Let’s break down how it all started. On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine. Many members of the international community and worldwide organizations immediately condemned Russia for these military actions. Some even went as far as to implement sanctions against Russia. As of now, these sanctions are piling up and severely impacting Russia’s economy and financial structure.
But what Russia didn’t expect was Anonymous to get involved. And what they’ve managed to do has undoubtedly affected Russia’s efforts in Ukraine. On February 24th, the Anonymous Collective officially declared a “cyber war against the Russian Government.” From there, a slew of cyber attacks penetrated Russia’s government and military including several government websites being taken down, military intel being leaked, Russian propaganda sites being taken down, and more.
It didn’t stop there either. Over the next few days, like Rocky unleashing multiple uppercuts to Ivan Drago’s chin, Anonymous continued its digital assault: more government websites taken down, Russian Ministry of Defense database leaked, military communications intercepted, and even Putin’s personal luxury yacht worth nearly $100 million was hacked to make it appear it has crashed into Snake Island. We’ve counted nearly 15 major cyberattacks as of the time of writing this article that Anonymous has successfully employed against Russia. In the context of hacking and cyber attacks, that is impressive. There are probably more that we don’t know about. Below is an infographic run down (and a downloadable PDF) of the timeline of events between Anonymous vs Russia.
How Could These Cyber Attacks Affect Russia’s Military Objectives?
These hacks into Russian websites and military databases are not insignificant either. They have affected this conflict. Here’s how these cyberattacks could potentially be impacting the Russia-Ukrainian conflict.
It Fuels Russian Dissent At Home
Anonymous Collective has infiltrated Russian news so the Russian people are fed raw, unfiltered, propaganda-free news coverage of the bloodshed and havoc their leader has unleashed on the Ukraine people. This is probably one reason we’re seeing Russians take to the streets in protest of their country’s actions and their leader’s brutal strategy.
Russia Military At Risk
Hacking military communications, servers, and intelligence puts the Russian military at a huge risk. It allows the Ukrainian military forces as well as armed civilians to know when and where the attacks are going to happen.
Perception Is Key
One thing we know is perception matters to the Russians, especially Putin. The perception right now with the conflict is that Putin has become unhinged, his efforts have been severely set back, there is unrest at home, he hasn’t accomplished the objectives in the timeframe he wanted, and the Russian economy is in a downward spiral. As it stands now, more Russian troops have died in this war than Ukrainian casualties. Approximately 5,300 Russian troops have been killed vs the reported 240 (at least) Ukrainians. Media outlets home and abroad have already dubbed this war a loss for Russia. Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and Bloomberg have all gone on to say, a loss is all but inevitable at this point.
The Fallout Of This Cyber War Against Russia
We are in new territory with this cyber warfare. Realistically, Anonymous is a faceless threat. They have no borders. They have no assets. They have no communication center or airport to target with physical weapons of war. How do Putin and Russia retaliate? Who is Russia supposed to retaliate against? Where are they to concentrate efforts? What military action and strategy does Russia use moving forward? That’s what makes this Russia-Ukraine conflict an incredible event in history. Along with sanctions from other world powers coupled with an incessant barrage of hacks and intel breaches, Russia is literally fighting multiple wars at once. One in the physical world. Another in the digital. And both are making a major impact on history. One can only imagine the frustration on the side of Putin and the Russians because of the torment and harm these cyberattacks have caused. And one has to wonder if this is a new wrinkle in military conflicts in the 21st century and beyond.