Emerging tech at war: the Russia-Ukraine conflict
In the U.S., Silicon Valley idealism and our way of life has made us generally associate emerging technologies with efforts to improve well-being, connectedness, health, business efficiencies, etc. But some of these same technologies can be used in warfare. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are beginning to see how technologies like drones, artificial intelligence and blockchain, along with cyberattacks, can be used by modern states to wage war.
Because of the impact of the invasion on everything from the price of gas to the stock market and the world political balance, not to mention the devastating impact on the people of Ukraine, this issue of Emerging Tech Law will take a curated look at the ways emerging technologies are being used in the conflict.
This issue will look at
-Cyber attacks: efforts being undertaken on behalf of both sides to disrupt computer systems.
-Drones: the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for both surveillance and for attacks.
-AI & deep fakes: Can deep fakes be used to alter opinions on the conflict?
-Crypto: how crypto is playing a role in the first large-scale war in the crypto age.
-Robots: Will Russian robots appear on the battlefield?
In prior conflicts, invaders used bombs and artillery to “soften” targets before troops moved in. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia used cyber attacks to create chaos and disrupt critical infrastructure. The cyber attacks though, may not be asymmetrical. President Biden has been briefed on a range of cyber counter attacks that could be launched against Russian targets. The hacker group Anonymous already is claiming to have shut down pro-Russian media and government websites.
- Ukraine computers hit by data wiping software. (Reuters)
- Russia’s Cyber threat is underestimated. (Wired)
- Russian government websites, including Kremlin site are down. (Jerusalem Post)
- Biden presented with cyber attack options. (NBC)
Drones became a staple of the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, and they are playing a critical role in the Ukrainian conflict. Aircraft aficionados tracked the flight paths of U.S. drones flying over Ukraine to monitor Russian troop movements. Both the Russian and Ukrainian militaries are using drones. The Ukrainian military is even calling on drone hobbyists to aid their country.
- Ukraine uses Turkish drones to hit Russian targets. (Wall Street Journal)
- Russian drones using U.S. tech. (Washington Post)
- Thousands tracking U.S. military drone over Ukraine. (Airline Ratings)
- Amateur drone operators defend border. (New Scientist)
- Ukraine calls on hobbyist drone operators to aid fight. (Gizmodo)
Artificial Intelligence / Deep Fakes
U.S. officials have raised concerns that Russia will use deep fakes – videos produced using artificial intelligence to justify its invasion of Ukraine or to otherwise sway public opinion. On the other hand, at least one apparently fake video has been used to glorify the story of a Ukrainian pilot who allegedly downed several Russian jets. Russia also is seeking to ramp up its military AI capabilities.
- Fake videos starring on social media. (WRAL)
- Before invasion, U.S. claimed Russia was planning fake video to justify war. (Guardian)
- Putin readies high tech war. (Politico)
Blockchain / Crypto
Both sides in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict could benefit from the lack of sovereign oversight over cryptocurrencies and the ease with which it can be transmitted. Millions of dollars worth of crypto are being sent from around the world to aid the Ukrainian military. Russia may use crypto to evade Western sanctions, including its removal from the SWIFT banking system.
- $4.1 million in crypto funneled to Ukrainian military after invasion. (CNBC)
- Ukraine seeks crypto crackdown on Russians. (Bloomberg)
- Uncertainty reigns in world’s first crypto war. (Washington Post)
- Russia could use crypto to soften impact of sanctions. (NY Times)
Although we haven’t seen them battle, Russia has allegedly developed an arsenal of military robots. Before the invasion, there was even speculation as to whether Russia could avoid heavy casualties through the use of robots.