A suspected member of the pro-Kremlin hacker group known as the Cyber Army of Russia has been detained by Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, in a recent development. The suspect, a tech specialist from Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, was reportedly recruited by Russian intelligence through a hacker channel on the messaging app Telegram.
Following the detention, Ukraine’s law enforcement conducted a search of the suspect’s apartment and seized three mobile phones, a laptop, and flash drives containing alleged evidence of his criminal activities. The hacker is suspected of carrying out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Ukrainian state websites on behalf of the Cyber Army of Russia. Additionally, the SBU claims that the group is controlled by Russian intelligence, despite presenting itself as a hacktivist collective similar to the IT Army Of Ukraine.
In addition to DDoS attacks, the suspect is also accused of leaking strategic information, including details of the whereabouts of Ukrainian troops, artillery, and air defense systems, to the Russian military. The SBU alleges that the suspect covertly recorded potential locations of the Ukrainian army and sent screenshots of online maps with coordinates of potential targets to Russian intelligence, which reportedly led to two missile strikes against Ukrainian civil infrastructure, including a local hospital.
If found guilty, the suspect could face up to 12 years in prison, according to Ukraine’s laws. This detention is part of a larger pattern of Ukrainian citizens allegedly being recruited by Russia to spy on the military or help target local infrastructure during the ongoing conflict. Typically, suspects capture photos or videos of potential locations of Ukrainian troops or weaponry and then send them to Russia through Telegram.
This incident is not an isolated case, as in October, the SBU detained another Ukrainian man who had installed cameras on the streets of his city to gather intelligence on the movements and numbers of Ukrainian equipment and military personnel. He reportedly sent this information to Russian intelligence. While the detention of hackers is rare in Ukraine, it has been previously reported in Russia.
In October, two Russian citizens were detained in Siberia for allegedly carrying out cyberattacks on Russian networks on behalf of Ukraine. If found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in prison on charges of treason. Additionally, in a separate case last year, three residents of the Russian city Rostov-on-Don were either sentenced to prison or fined for carrying out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Russian sites.
The ongoing cyber warfare between Ukraine and Russia continues to raise concerns about cybersecurity and the use of technology in military operations. As the conflict persists, both countries are actively engaged in monitoring and detaining individuals suspected of hacking and espionage activities. This has led to a series of arrests and legal actions against those involved in cyber warfare activities.
The arrest of the suspected member of the Cyber Army of Russia highlights the complexities of modern warfare, where cyber tactics are utilized alongside traditional military strategies. There is a growing need for international cooperation and agreements to address cybersecurity threats and prevent the escalation of cyber warfare between nations. The consequences of such activities can result in significant damage to critical infrastructure and civilian casualties, emphasizing the urgency for a unified response to cyber threats in the global community.