Technology companies and regulators in the EU and west have the power to disturb the functioning of Russia’s internet and the malicious use of the Internet outside the country without affecting the country’s essential data and infrastructure nor harming the infrastructure of other countries. These digital sanctions can be implemented quickly and removed easily when appropriate.
Andrey Kolodyuk and Jan Thys are co-founders of the Free Ukraine Foundation, a non-profit just created in Belgium to assist Ukrainian people and businesses affected by the war.
Yobie Benjamin, former chief technology officer of Global Transaction Services, Citibank, also contributed to this opinion.
Today, as Russia is bombing Ukraine and threatening the world, one of its most potent weapons — the internet – should not be overlooked.
The aggressor’s cyber warfare capabilities are world-class. Not only are they being used to attack Ukraine: they are ready to strike the world’s critical infrastructures.
The recent past has shown how tangible this threat is. For example, the Russian government is suspected to be behind the 2020 SolarWinds attack, which affected thousands of organisations globally, including multiple parts of the United States federal government.
Tomorrow, we may witness a complete crash of capital markets or wake up without heat and electricity – unless we’d learn to live without toilet paper, food, medicine, and fuel due to supply chain disruptions.
Russia has also wielded the Internet as an effective weapon in destabilising governments and institutions, dividing political and civil discourse in the USA, Western Europe and beyond. From the trucker protests in Canada to ethnic tensions and the January 6 insurrection in the United States, Russia has been aggressive in creating active societal unrest to its advantage.
What could be done
In response to the invasion of Ukraine, the west has moved fast to support Ukraine in military terms and to sanction Russia economically and technologically.
A lot could be done in the digital field, too, supported by regulatory action as a crucial component of the west’s answer.
We need to reduce the cyber threat, i.e….