Ukrainian startup is offering hackers $100,000 to bring down Russian websites

By Alma Fabiani

Published Mar 2, 2022 at 11:10 AM

Reading time: 1 minute

On Tuesday 1 March at 4 am, Kyiv-based cybersecurity company Cyber Unit Technologies officially launched ‘Fuck Hack Russia’, a global ‘hackathon’ calling for volunteers to help expose Russian software vulnerabilities. In exchange, the company is promising $100,000 in cryptocurrency to the best online attacks conducted against Russian websites.

https://twitter.com/Yegor_au/status/1497880962990059522

The mastermind behind this unprecedented cyber effort is Cyber Unit’s co-founder Yegor Aushev, who called it a “decentralised cyber army [drawn] from the whole world.” He says over 500 people—including Ukrainians who work in the country’s technology sector as well as outsiders—have come forward so far to volunteer. Aushev’s firm is known for working with Ukraine’s government on the defence of critical infrastructure.

This initiative follows the highly unusual call on Saturday 26 February, made by Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, for global volunteers from the country’s hacker underground to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber spying missions against Russian troops—forming an “IT Army.” Fedorov added that the army in question would be organising on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where volunteers would be able to complete “operational tasks.”

The government’s effort, which even has its own Twitter account, is openly calling for hackers to work with the international hacktivist collective Anonymous. The group has also joined forces with a band of Belarusian activists called the Cyber-Partisans whose cyberattack on Belarus’ train network allegedly disrupted Russian troop movements into Ukraine—the first time ransomware has been used this way if proved true.

Reporting on the topic, Sifted added, “Other hacking groups include the Georgian Hackers Society, whose members are swapping disruption tips on social hub Discord. ‘We are ghosts attacking Russia and Russian occupiers,’” one anonymous member told the publication.

While it’s unclear so far how effective the community-driven cyberattacks will be at slowing down Russia, the message of resistance they promote has been helpful in itself for Ukrainians. At the very least, the defensive cyberattacks will “certainly cause annoyance and frustration,” Tim Stevens, director of the Cyber Security Research Group (CSRG) at King’s College London, told Sifted. “What we have not seen so obviously [before] is [the] mobilisation of domestic hacker and IT communities in defence of a sovereign nation.”

Cyber Unit Technologies is also calling for donations to grow its reward pot.

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