Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was preceded by a large-scale cyber attack, which signaled the beginning of a whole new form of war, said the president of Microsoft.
Speaking at the Microsoft Envision event in London, Brad Smith revealed that she was aware of the potential attacks on Ukraine, which were launched shortly before the physical invasion.
The company then managed to gather its resources not only to quell the initial attacks, but also to help Ukrainian defenders organize a response to what Smith called the “first great hybrid war.”
Returning to the original “epochs” of war, which included land, sea, and air strikes, respectively, Smith noted that the war had already entered the “fourth plane”: cyber.
The company had three main responsibilities: maintaining government, protecting the nation, and protecting the people.
Smith outlined how, until a week before the start of the war, the Ukrainian government had worked entirely on the ground. However, as fears of invasion grew, Microsoft jumped into action and “within days” 16 of the 17 government ministries and a number of key Ukrainian companies were relocated to the cloud.
Importantly, Smith noted that this cloud is outside Ukraine for added security – a move aided by the fact that Microsoft has spent $ 12 billion to build data centers across Europe.
“The best way to protect a country during a war is to ensure its continuity by dispersing its digital assets,” he said. “You’re safest when people don’t know where your data is.”
Also before the physical invasion, Smith noted that the conflict actually seems to have started online, as the Foxblade malware was launched against up to 300 Ukrainian targets.
“The first shells were fired into cyberspace,” he said, outlining how seven different units in three parts of the Russian government began to carry out attacks. Unlike the NotPetya attack used during the previous Russian invasion, these attacks were precisely targeted, using waves of wiper software to cripple Ukraine’s infrastructure.
“As the war continues, what we’ve seen is not just the spread of attacks, but sometimes a combination of attacks,” he said, noting that Microsoft has uncovered 237 individual operations and 40 destructive attacks targeting hundreds of systems ahead of Cyber and ground attacks have also decreased from days to hours and sometimes even minutes, he said, highlighting a cyber attack aimed at a nuclear power plant, with a physical attack followed within hours.
Looking ahead, Smith noted that Microsoft’s role now focuses on several fronts, including cutting off Russian disinformation, protecting people on the ground and ensuring accountability for war crimes committed during the conflict.
“We will have to develop defensive capabilities to combat this type of cyber attack,” he said.
“When we think about the war in Ukraine, when we think about what is needed to support and sustain this government … I think we need to think about what this means for our place in the world … in many ways the gift given to us is under attack. . “
“We must all acknowledge that we are working together to support not only Ukraine but the world.