On March 1, Russian forces invading Ukraine took out a TV tower in Kyiv after the Kremlin declared its intention to destroy “disinformation” in the neighboring country. That public act of kinetic destruction accompanied a much more hidden but no less damaging action: targeting a prominent Ukrainian broadcaster with malware to render its computers inoperable.
The dual action is one of many examples of the “hybrid war” Russia has waged against Ukraine since before the invasion began, according to a report published Wednesday by Microsoft. Shortly before the invasion, the company said, hackers in six groups aligned with the Kremlin have launched no fewer than 237 operations in concert with the physical attacks on the battlefield. Almost 40 of them targeting hundreds of systems used wiper malware, which deletes essential files stored on hard drives so the machines can’t boot.
“As today’s report details, Russia’s use of cyberattacks appears to be strongly correlated and sometimes directly timed with its kinetic military operations targeting services and institutions crucial for civilians,” Tom Burt, Microsoft corporate vice president for customer security, wrote. He said the “relentless and destructive Russian cyberattacks” were particularly concerning because many of them targeted critical infrastructure that could have cascading negative effects on the country.