Cyberspace has become a new place of warfare – the head of Microsoft


As the conflict in Ukraine has shown, military operations have now moved to the “fourth plane” – cyberspace. This was announced by Microsoft President Brad Smith during the Microsoft Envision event in London.

According to Smith, since the introduction of Russian troops into Ukraine, there have been serious changes in the methods of warfare. If earlier the places of warfare were land, sea and air, now “the first large-scale hybrid war in history is taking place in the world.”

Microsoft has already considered such a development, Smith said. For example, the company advocated the adoption of the so-called “digital Geneva Convention”, calling on governments to protect civilians both in peacetime and in wartime. Microsoft also participated in the organization of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord alliance, which includes 150 companies from 29 countries. However, as Smith admitted, he did not expect that very soon the world would discuss the principles proposed by his company in the context of a “serious large-scale war.”

Smith outlined three main technological roles that Microsoft has focused on in connection with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Providing support to the Government

Just as in World War II the British government moved all its communications underground, now the Ukrainian government had to move everything to the cloud. Just a week before Russia’s entry of troops, almost all Ukrainian government systems were working locally. Soon the government realized the danger of this approach, and Microsoft helped him migrate to the cloud, and in some cases even outside the country.

Protection of the State

Since the beginning of the conflict, when DDoS attacks and site deface prevailed, the nature of cyber attacks has changed, Smith said. As the hostilities continued, Russia used a combination of cyber and kinetic attacks. For example, at the beginning of March, in a couple of days, Russia switched from disconnecting the network at a nuclear power plant to attacking this power plant.

“We are watching the development of this hybrid war in real time,” Smith explained.

This trend demonstrates the importance of “fast protection”. Microsoft is working to quickly send information about the attacks it detects to “people who can stop them.” This first line of defense is often network administrators or IT directors.

Smith also stressed the role of disinformation in the conflict, “which is part of a comprehensive operation conducted to support Russian military objectives in Ukraine on a global basis.” Therefore, the company “needs to develop offensive capabilities to combat this kind of cyberattacks, as it does with others.”

Protecting people

Protecting civilians is currently “the most important task for everyone,” Smith said. In particular, this includes ensuring accountability for war crimes, such as the shelling of hospitals. Technology plays a huge role in gathering the evidence needed to prosecute criminals.

Using satellite images, Microsoft has developed an artificial intelligence algorithm “capable of identifying attacks, damage or destruction of hospitals, schools or water towers on a daily basis.”

Smith added that it is important to “use all available tools to protect people and ensure that the foundation is created” for the second Nuremberg trial.

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