Slava Panik and his team created the IT Army of Ukraine.
Samuel SchumacherForeign Correspondent
Their attacks hit Russia far from the front lines, and their attacks are aimed directly at the people of Putin’s empire: more than 300,000 volunteers fight with their computers in Ukraine’s IT army. But they usually fight their war from major battlefields.
But the war in Ukraine is being fought not only around Bagmut and Cherson, but also in the digital space. “This is the first cyber war in the history of this planet,” says Slava Panik (32), chief developer of Ukrainian Digital Transformation. No one knows the hacker scene in Warland better than him.
In a cafeteria in Davos GR, he tells us about his work: “Life in Russia must be very uncomfortable. The Russian people must feel the war, not think that they will get away with it,” explains the young man in the blue hoodie.
“Life in Russia must be very uncomfortable. The Russian people must feel the war so that they don’t get off scot-free.Slava Panic
In 2019, the former digital marketing entrepreneur came to the newly formed Ministry of Digital Transformation. Its goal: eliminate bureaucracy in Ukraine and make all state duties and services accessible in a few clicks – from filing tax returns to marriages or establishing a company.
Half the world is hacking
But then the war came and turned everything upside down. “No other country has as many IT professionals as Ukraine,” Panik says. It wasn’t long before thousands of them formed Ukraine’s unofficial IT army. Today, Digital Force counts hundreds of thousands of anonymous volunteers. From their cold rooms and rocket bunkers, they fight 24 hours a day against Vladimir Putin (70) and his henchmen. Of course, there are similar groups on the Russian side. But their attacks had so far been less violent than Cave had feared at the start of the war.
called “Distributed-Denial-of-Service”-Attacks (DDoS) was shown. Computer users flood a particular website with massive access requests until the system becomes overloaded and crashes. Ukrainians are not the only ones involved. The IT Army’s English-language Telegram account, used by all non-Ukrainian speakers, has nearly as many followers as the original account.
They also hacked Putin’s website
On the one hand, digital players have targeted Russian companies and institutions: this week, for example, they blocked part of the Russian Regional Development Bank, preventing its customers from paying with their bank cards. Three days after the war broke out, they managed to briefly hack Putin’s official website. “Everything is under attack.” His silver braces glinted in the harsh cafeteria light as Panik laughed. And he always has a reason to smile.
Recently, hackers of the IT Army managed to disable the Russian YouTube «RuTube». They have repeatedly successfully attacked news websites and television stations and spread pro-Ukrainian statements. “Many Russians support this war, so they should feel that way,” says Panik. The calculation behind it: If the people get angry, Putin can’t stand it, and then there’s a chance for peace.
How the “Civil Secret Service” Works
But the hacker attacks are only one side of the digital war Ukraine — so far largely out of the media arena — wants Russia to abandon. The other side: what Panik calls the first “civilian secret service” in human history. Anyone in Ukraine can use the “eBopor” (digital enemy) app to report suspicious sightings: if they see Russian positions somewhere, see a Putin fighter jet, or notice something else strange.
“That’s the jackpot.” 450,000 reports have come in since the start of the war – anonymously and at lightning speed. “Each report is verified by a team of experts and then sent directly to the military,” Chief Hacker explains. “Such a tool could have already decided many wars.”
And what about after the war? Will IT Militants Stick to a Potential Peace Agreement? “We’ll see about that,” says Panik. “First we have to win, otherwise all our beautiful digital tools will be wasted.”
“Wannabe pop culture fanatic. Zombie advocate. Entrepreneur. Internet evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Typical travel buff.”