How Russia Took Over Ukraine’s Internet in Occupied Territories | Big Indy News
Connect with us

Tech

How Russia Took Over Ukraine’s Internet in Occupied Territories

Published

on



Internet traffic in Kherson is being diverted through Russia

Internet routing data for a service provider in Kherson shows traffic beginning to flow through Russian networks in May before fully transitioning by early June.

Internet traffic routed through:




Source: Kentik



Several weeks after taking over Ukraine’s southern port city of Kherson, Russian soldiers arrived at the offices of local internet service providers and ordered them to give up control of their networks.


“They came to them and put guns to their head and just said, ‘Do this,’” said Maxim Smelyanets, who owns an internet provider that operates in the area and is based in Kyiv. “They did that step by step for each company.”


Russian authorities then rerouted mobile and internet data from Kherson through Russian networks, government and industry officials said. They blocked access to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as to Ukrainian news websites and other sources of independent information. Then they shut off Ukrainian cellular networks, forcing Kherson’s residents to use Russian mobile service providers instead.







Internet service

provider

Internet

service

provider


May 29 Kherson stayed connected to the global internet even after Russian forces took control in March.






Internet service

provider

Internet

service

provider


June 1 Then the connection closed. Russian authorities rerouted Kherson’s internet traffic through a state-controlled network in Crimea.






Internet service

provider

Internet

service

provider


June 5 Russia has only added to the network infrastructure, routing more traffic through Moscow to strengthen its control of Kherson’s internet.





Source: Kentik (traffic data) | Institute for the Study of War with American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (occupied territory)


Note: Internet service provider and traffic route locations are approximate. The service area for one provider whose traffic has been routed through Crimea could not be verified and is not shown.


What happened in Kherson is playing out in other parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine. After more than five months of war, Russia controls large sections of eastern and southern Ukraine. Bombings have leveled cities and villages; civilians have been detained, tortured and killed; and supplies of food and medicine are running low, according to witnesses interviewed by The New York Times and human rights groups. Ukrainians in those regions have access only to Russian state television and radio.


To cap off that control, Russia has also begun occupying the cyberspace of parts of those areas. That has cleaved off Ukrainians in Russia-occupied Kherson, Melitopol and Mariupol from the rest of the country, limiting access to news about the war and communication with loved ones. In some territories, the internet and cellular networks have been shut down altogether.


Restricting internet access is part of a Russian authoritarian playbook that is likely to be replicated further if they take more Ukrainian territory. The digital tactics have put those Ukrainian areas in the grip of a vast digital censorship and surveillance apparatus, with Russia able to track web traffic and digital communications, spread propaganda and manage what news reaches people.


“The first thing that an occupier does when they come to Ukrainian territory is cut off the networks,” said Stas Prybytko, who leads mobile broadband development in Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation. “The goal is to restrict people’s access to the internet and block them from communicating with their families in other cities and keep them from receiving truthful information.”


Russia’s rerouting and censorship of the Ukrainian internet has little historical precedent elsewhere in the world. Even after Beijing took more control of Hong Kong beginning in 2019, the internet in the city was not placed under the same kind of censorship controls as in mainland China. And while Russia’s tactics can be circumvented — people use virtual private networks, or VPNs, which hide a user’s location and identity to get around the internet blocks — they might be applied to future occupations.


In Russian-controlled Ukraine, the internet restrictions began with key infrastructure built years ago. In 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, the strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine, a state telecom company built a subsea cable and other infrastructure across the Kerch Strait to redirect internet traffic from Crimea to Russia.


Data from Ukrainian networks is now being redirected south through Crimea and through those cables, researchers said. On May 30, the traffic of the Kherson-based internet networks like Skynet and Status Telecom suddenly went dark. Over the next few days, people’s internet connections were restored, but they were running through a Russian state-controlled telecom company in Crimea, Miranda Media, according to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik, a company that measures the performance of internet networks.


Russian forces are also destroying infrastructure that linked the internet in the occupied areas to the rest of Ukraine and the global web, said Mykhailo Kononykhin, head of information technology and a system administrator for a provider that had about 10,000 customers in the Melitopol area. He added that Russian forces were also stealing equipment from Ukrainian internet providers to strengthen connections to Crimea, including laying more fiber-optic wires.





A destroyed shopping mall in Kherson, Ukraine, where residents are being forced to use Russian cellular networks.




Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


In some Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, digital censorship is even worse than inside Russia, government and industry officials say. In the Kherson and Donetsk regions, Google, YouTube and the messaging app Viber have been blocked, internet operators said.


“We’re seeing an occupation of the Ukrainian internet,” said Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, an internet monitoring service based in London.


Konstantin Ryzhenko, a Ukrainian journalist in Kherson, said many Ukrainian websites and online banking services were inaccessible, as well as social media services like Facebook and Instagram. VPNs have become essential for people to communicate and stay in touch, he said.


Russia is requiring Ukrainians there to show a passport to buy a SIM card with a Russian phone number, Mr. Ryzhenko said. That makes it easier for Russian troops to keep tabs on people with their mobile devices, including location and internet browsing.


“You’re buying the device that is wiretapping your traffic, knowing full well who you are, and identifies precisely all your actions on the internet,” he said.


In some occupied areas, internet and mobile phone networks were shut off, creating a digital blackout. A few Ukrainian internet providers sabotaged their own networks rather than turning them over to the Russians, according to the Ukrainian government.


Anton Koval, who lived for 21 days in a village outside Kyiv that was occupied in February and March, said Russian soldiers had gone through town shooting and destroying cellular towers. Cut off from information and communication with the outside world, some residents grew so desperate that they climbed onto roofs and hilltops seeking connections.


“But the Russians hunted people who tried to climb high places,” Mr. Koval said in an interview. “When a close neighbor tried to climb a tree, they shot him in the leg.”


Beyond Ukraine’s occupied territories, the internet has been a key battlefield in the war. While Russia has imposed a blunt censorship regime at home, Ukraine has effectively used social media to rally global support and share information about civilian deaths and other atrocities. Mobile apps warn Ukrainians about missile attacks and give updates about the war.


About 15 percent of Ukraine’s internet infrastructure across the country had been damaged or destroyed as of June, according the government. At least 11 percent of all cellular base stations, which are equipment that connect handsets to mobile networks, do not work because of damage or lack of power.





As of June, the war had destroyed or damaged about 15 percent of Ukraine’s internet structure, including these cables being repaired in Irpin, near Kyiv.




Ivor Prickett for The New York Times


Yet in many parts of Ukraine, internet and mobile service has remained strong. Ukraine’s tech sector has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise decimated economy. Telegram, the messaging and communications platform, has remained available, even in many occupied areas.


More than 12,000 internet Starlink terminals made by SpaceX, the private rocket company controlled by Elon Musk, have supplemented coverage, said Andrii Nabok, an official in the Ministry of Digital Transformation, which is trying to restore internet access in the country. A government loan program is being drafted to speed up repairs.


Where Ukrainian forces have regained control of occupied territories, restoring internet and cellular services was among the first tasks. Near the front lines, telecom technicians are escorted by soldiers, sometimes in the face of artillery fire. Mr. Prybytko, who oversees some network rebuilding efforts for the government, said telecom workers were the “hidden heroes” of the war.


Lack of proper internet or communication tools is just one small part of the misery in occupied areas with no electricity or water and food shortages. “We are not speaking about internet or providing some information to people, we are speaking about survival,” said Yuliia Rudanovska, who lives in Poland but has family in Izyum, which faced weeks of air attacks from Russian forces.


Oleksandra Samoylova, who lives in Kharkiv in the northeast, said she had not been able to reach her grandmother in an occupied area about 85 miles away since April. The only word received about her were two messages that she was OK from a neighbor who sent short texts after reaching a nearby village where there was a connection.


Ukrainian officials fear the disruptions could get worse as Russia has vowed to push farther into Ukraine. Government intelligence indicates Russia is laying more fiber-optic cable to divert even more traffic in the future, Mr. Nabok said.


To help people in those areas connect to the global internet, Ukraine’s government is providing free access to certain VPN services. Ukrainian officials are also seeking donations for routers and other equipment to put internet service into bomb shelters, including at schools.


“The educational process should continue, even in bomb shelters, so they need internet connections underground,” Mr. Prybytko said.

Read the full article here

Tech

ElonJet is (sort of) back on Twitter

Published

on

The college student who ran the now-banned @ElonJet Twitter account that used public information to track Elon Musk’s private jet has resumed his activities on Twitter under a new username. As noted by Insider, Jack Sweeney, 20, has created a new account called @ElonJetNextDay — which now tracks Musk’s private jet with a 24-hour delay to circumvent Twitter policy restrictions.

Sweeney’s original ElonJet account was suspended from the platform last week following accusations from Musk that it violated Twitter rules by revealing his live location. Twitter updated its policy to forbid publishing a person’s real-time location on the same day it suspended ElonJet. Sweeney said in an interview with Insider that he will be “posting manually” for now while he works on the framework to fully automate the account.

Musk tweeted on December 15th that “Posting locations someone traveled to on a slightly delayed basis isn’t a safety problem, so is ok.” Twitter also explicitly states that “sharing publicly available location information after a reasonable time has elapsed, so that the individual is no longer at risk for physical harm” is not a violation of platform rules. Elsewhere in the policy, it notes that its definition of “live” location data means someone’s real-time or same-day whereabouts.

Most commercial and private aircraft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) that transmits a unique code (tied to the airplane’s tail number) containing information such as altitude and GPS location. This information is publicly available and aircraft flying in the USA and Europe are required to broadcast it in order to prevent midair collisions.

In a statement back in November, Musk said he would not ban the original ElonJet account as part of his “commitment to free speech” despite claiming it was a “direct personal safety risk.” The automated ElonJet account posted publicly available information regarding the location of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER, and had amassed over 540,000 followers before it was permanently banned on December 14th. Musk previously offered Sweeney $5,000 to have the account taken down.



Read the full article here

Continue Reading

Tech

She Worked for Twitter. Then She Tweeted at Elon Musk.

Published

on

Early in November, Twitter’s roughly 7,500 employees received a terse email from a generic address: “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global work force.” The note was signed “Twitter.” On Nov. 3, some people at the company received emails indicating they would be laid off the next day.

That night, Ms. Solomon, her husband and a few colleagues headed to Dots Cafe Portland, a lounge on Clinton Street. Phones were on the table, face up, she said. As the work friends talked, they tapped away at their phones, taking part in chats on the Signal app with colleagues in London, Seattle and San Francisco. Messages like “I got hit” were flying across screens, Ms. Solomon recalled. “You were seeing your co-workers drop like flies,” she said.

By the next afternoon her team of about 10 engineers was reduced to four. Ms. Solomon and her husband had survived the round of layoffs. The next week, she recalled, she awaited further direction from Mr. Musk or the new executive team. Nothing came, she said, except for an email alerting employees that remote work would no longer be permitted, with few exceptions.

Many employees learned of Mr. Musk’s priorities by watching his Twitter feed, where he posted frequently about company business to his more than 100 million followers. On Nov. 5, he complained about the platform’s search function: “Search within Twitter reminds me of Infoseek in ’98! That will also get a lot better pronto,” he wrote. That same day, he tweeted: “Twitter will soon add ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

That was more than Ms. Solomon and many of her colleagues had heard internally. “Radio silence,” she said. She began to vent her frustration on Twitter.

One of her first tweets in this vein came on Nov. 6, shortly after Mr. Musk announced a new rule for Twitter users in a tweet: “Any name change at all will cause temporary loss of verified checkmark,” he wrote. He had posted that message after many people on Twitter had changed their names to variations on Mr. Musk’s name, most of them mocking.



Read the full article here

Continue Reading

Tech

The new iOS 16.2 Home app architecture upgrade has disappeared

Published

on

Apple has removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture on devices running iOS 16.2. The change follows multiple reports of issues and problems with the Home app after the upgrade was installed.

Apple spokesperson Emily Ewing confirmed the change in a statement provided to The Verge:

“We are aware of an issue that may impact the ability for users to share the Home within the Home app. A fix will be available soon. In the meantime, we’ve temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture. Users who have already upgraded will not be impacted.“

The new Home app architecture was one of the key features of iOS 16.2, with Apple claiming that the upgrade would be “more reliable and efficient.” MacRumors first discovered this week that the Home app in iOS 16.2 no longer offers the option to upgrade to the new architecture within the Home app settings. Several reporters at The Verge have also confirmed that the upgrade option is unavailable on their devices.

The new architecture was first introduced in the iOS 16.2 beta back in October as an optional upgrade before the iOS 16.2 public release on December 13th. Both the beta and public release required Apple devices logged into iCloud to be running the latest versions of iOS, macOS, and tvOS. The upgrade does not happen automatically when iOS 16.2 is installed on a phone, instead requiring a manual process through the Home app.

The update has caused issues with missing devices and adding multiple users for some

Reddit users who downloaded the optional upgrade prior to its removal have reported issues such as the app booting other members from a Home account and being unable to re-add them. Users on the MacRumors forum have reported being unable to invite users to share the Home, HomeKit‌ devices being stuck displaying an “updating” status, and some accessories vanishing from the Home app entirely. Users who have already upgraded are unable to revert to the previous version of the app.

Update, December 23rd, 2022, 2:15PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Apple spokesperson. Added links to Apple’s updated support pages.

Read the full article here

Continue Reading

Trending