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Microsoft Helps Ukrainian Government Detect Cyberattacks Amid Russian Invasion

American technology company Microsoft is helping the Ukrainian government detect cyberattacks and “disinformation campaigns” as Russia continues its invasion.

According to a blog post from Microsoft President Brad Smith, the cyberattacks are “precisely targeted” and have been impacting several civilian digital targets. 

“All of us who work at Microsoft are following closely the tragic, unlawful and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. This has become both a kinetic and digital war, with horrifying images from across Ukraine as well as less visible cyberattacks on computer networks and internet-based disinformation campaigns,” Smith wrote. “We are fielding a growing number of inquiries about these aspects and our work, and therefore we are putting in one place a short summary about them in this blog.”

Specifically, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center “detected a new round of offensive and destructive cyberattacks directed against Ukraine’s digital infrastructure” hours before the initial offensive on February 24. “We immediately advised the Ukrainian government about the situation, including our identification of the use of a new malware package (which we denominated FoxBlade), and provided technical advice on steps to prevent the malware’s success,” Smith said. 

“In recent days, we have provided threat intelligence and defensive suggestions to Ukrainian officials regarding attacks on a range of targets, including Ukrainian military institutions and manufacturers and several other Ukrainian government agencies,” Smith continued, adding that Microsoft is also sharing information with NATO officials and the United States government.

Policymakers have also expressed concern that Russian agents may retaliate against the United States through cyberattacks. “We have to be realistic and understand that as we impose sanctions — we take actions — there could be blowback here,” Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) explained at The Wall Street Journal’s recent CIO Network Summit. He advised American companies that they have a “role to play” in protecting against cyberattacks from Russia.

In addition to protecting from cyberattacks, Microsoft — which has employees in both Russia and Ukraine — is helping the Ukrainian government resist “state-sponsored disinformation campaigns” and offering “humanitarian assistance.”

“We are also focused as a company in protecting against state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, which have long been commonplace in times of war,” Smith explained. “The past few days have seen kinetic warfare accompanied with a well-orchestrated battle ongoing in the information ecosystem where the ammunition is disinformation, undermining truth and sowing seeds of discord and distrust. This requires decisive efforts across the tech sector — both individually by companies and in partnership with others — as well as with governments, academia and civil society.”

Among other actions, Smith is removing Russian news apps from its Windows store and de-ranking the sites’ search results on Bing.

With respect to humanitarianism, Microsoft is supporting organizations that are “doing critical work to help support refugees fleeing into neighboring countries,” as well as activating the “Microsoft Disaster Response Team to provide technology support.” Microsoft is prioritizing the protection of its employees in Ukraine, including those who have “needed to flee for their lives.”

Microsoft is not the only American technology company that has aided Ukraine and its citizens. Under the leadership of Elon Musk, SpaceX answered a request from Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Federov to supply broadband internet service through the company’s Starlink satellites. According to SpaceX, “Starlink is ideally suited for areas where connectivity has been unreliable or completely unavailable,” and “people across the globe are using Starlink to gain access to education, health services and even communications support during natural disasters.”

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