The advent of hybrid warfare

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The advent of hybrid warfare

The author is a reporter of the national 2 team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Twitter account of Mykhailo Fedorov — the vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation of Ukraine — reminds me of a cyber battlefield. On February 26, he tweeted, “We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents.” Several days before Russia started a full-scale invasion, Ukrainian government agencies and financial institutions suffered massive DDoS attacks.

Ukraine pointed to Russia as the mastermind. It is no coincidence that the Russian foreign ministry and Moscow stock exchange websites were paralyzed two days later. Currently, 275,000 people are subscribing to the Telegram channel — IT Army of Ukraine — made by the Ukraine government.

Modern warfare is characterized by a set of complex tactics which mobilize cyberattacks and psychological warfare as well as conventional forces. It is the concept of hybrid warfare.

Russia is considered the most powerful in the warfare. It used the hybrid tactic of combining military operations and psychological warfare when it invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia turned to cyber and information warfare as it could not catch up with the unrivalled economic and military power of the United States after the Cold War.

According to Reuters, the Ukrainian defense ministry plans to establish an elite cyberwarfare unit made of Ukrainian hackers. They will not only engage in cyber espionage but also defend infrastructure such as power plants and water supply facilities.

Why water supply facilities? In February 2021, the computer system of a water supply system in Pinellas County, Florida was hacked. The hackers attempted to raise the level of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) — also known as lye — by more than 100 times.

NaOH is used to prevent pipes from corrosion, but it is harmful to humans if the level exceeds the standard.

The leader of psychological warfare as fierce as the cyberwarfare is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. On February 26, he posted a selfie taken from the street of capital Kyiv saying, “I am here. We will not lay down any weapons” on social media, dismissing the rumors that he had fled. It was the day after Kyiv suffered Russia’s missile attacks.

President Zelensky’s communication skills are considered to have inspired and united the Ukrainian people to fight back. Russia succeeded in two previous hybrid warfare, but the third attempt seems to be breaking before the miracle of the Dnieper River flowing across Ukraine. 

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