The First Digital War

The First Digital War. By Gary Gindler.

The Russian units had been identified before entering Ukrainian territory.  Each commander had been singled out. Leaks have been reported of a database containing 120 thousand Russian soldiers and officers fighting in Ukraine. The names, addresses, passports, and military identifications of these individuals have been published.

Additionally, a massive data-mining operation with open (and some illegally obtained but commonly available in Russia) sources revealed every Russian invader’s phone numbers, family members, travel patterns, photographs, friends, and parents. It has never happened before; recall that the Internet does not have a “delete” button. The world will access everything it knows about the aggressors in perpetuity. For the first time in history, the victim of the aggression makes sure that every Russian will soon Google what their loved one has done in Ukraine.

Today’s generation of Russians, like the rest of the world, have no access to the names of those Soviet “liberators” who raped millions of German girls in 1945.  However, the names of those Russians who raped Ukrainian girls (some of whom were under ten years old) are filed and are potentially accessible on the Internet for everyone to see. …

Telephones too:

Shortly after the attack, local carriers canceled the registration of Russia-issued cell phones on Ukrainian mobile networks. Having robbed the local Ukrainian population of cell phones, the attackers became ecstatic that they could now contact their loved ones for free. However, nobody told them that Ukrainian intelligence has access to all phone calls via Ukrainian networks.

As a result, it is the first war in which practically all communications among the “liberators” are intercepted and recorded. Moreover, all telephone calls between the invading units and their relatives in Russia were captured and documented, along with all metadata (geolocation, timestamp, and the two telephone numbers).

Ukrainian intelligence quickly traced calls made from the territory of Ukraine to Russian phone numbers. These stolen Ukrainian cell phone numbers are made into targets of the Ukrainian digital campaign designed to influence the current smartphone user (presumably a Russian soldier) to defect. Similarly, the corresponding Russian telephone numbers are intended to cultivate distrust, panic, and diverse anti-Putin narratives. Russian soldiers are receiving frightening text messages: indeed, after the war, we will find you; revenge by Ukrainians is imminent; neither you nor your family members are safe, even if you never depart Russia. One message reads, “Maybe not today, but tomorrow or in a year, you will die. We are coming after you.”

No longer can soldiers hide their identity behind their uniform.