The hacking operation comes as the Ukrainian government
appears to have begun a parallel effort to punish Russia by publishing the
names of purported Russian soldiers who operated in Bucha, Ukraine, the site of
a massacre of civilians, and agents of the FSB, a major Russian intelligence
agency, along with identifying information like dates of birth and passport
numbers. It is unclear how the Ukrainian government obtained those names or
whether they were part of the hacks.
Much of the data released by the hackers and the Ukrainian
government is by its nature impossible to verify. As an intelligence agency,
the FSB would never confirm a list of its officers. Even the groups
distributing the data have warned that the files swiped from Russian
institutions could contain malware, manipulated or faked information, and other
Some of the data may also be recycled from previous leaks
and presented as new, researchers have said, in an attempt to artificially
increase the hackers’ credibility. Or some of it could be manufactured —
something that has happened before in the ongoing cyberconflict between Russia
and Ukraine, which dates back more than a decade.
But the hacking effort appears to be part of a campaign by
those opposing the Kremlin to help in the war effort by making it difficult for
Russian spies to operate abroad and by planting a seed of fear in the minds of
soldiers that they could be held to account for human rights abuses.
Dmitri Alperovitch, a founder of the Silverado Policy
Accelerator, a Washington think tank, and the former chief technology officer
at cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said there was reason to maintain a healthy
scepticism about the reliability of some of the leaks.
But he added that the hacking campaign “once again may prove
that in the age of pervasive cyberintrusions and the generation of vast amounts
of digital exhaust by nearly every person in a connected society, no one is
able to hide and avoid identification for egregious war crimes for long.”
The leaks also demonstrate Ukraine’s willingness to join
forces with amateur hackers in its cyberwar against Russia. In early March,
Ukrainian officials rallied volunteers for hacking projects,…