On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded areas of Ukraine near its northern, eastern, and southern borders. It’s a significant military action that could have alarming consequences, and more than 500,000 people had reportedly fled from Ukraine to neighboring countries by February 28th.
Tech companies responded to the crisis in various ways, with a focus on trying to reduce online misinformation and avoid putting Ukrainians in danger. Google disabled Maps traffic data in Ukraine to protect citizens, for example, while Facebook removed a Russian misinformation network. But Russia has blocked Twitter and partially blocked Facebook. And there have been internet outages in Ukraine that have sparked concerns about the possibility of attacks on Ukraine’s internet infrastructure.
Read on for our latest coverage of the crisis.
Aug 6Apple delists podcast that the Russian government wanted blocked.
Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has amped up its censorship push since the country invaded Ukraine last year, and it asked Apple earlier this year to remove the news podcast from Meduza, a Latvian-based independent outlet that publishes news about Russia.
Now Meduza says it received the following notice from Apple, with no mention of what the issue is that apparently needs to be resolved.
We found an issue with your show, Что случилось [What Happened], which must be resolved before it’s available on Apple Podcasts. Your show has been removed from Apple Podcasts.
- Russian “rebellion” attempt ends with a post on Telegram.
Late Saturday in Russia, Prigozhin announced his forces were “turning around our columns and returning to field camps according to plan” after coming within 200km (125 miles) of Moscow without any bloodshed. That Telegram post currently has over 192,000 clown emoji reactions.
Russian state news agency TASS reports charges against Prigozhin will be dropped and that he will leave for Belarus.
- Russian ISPs cut off access to Google News as Putin responds to “armed rebellion.”
As the New York Times, CNN, and BBC report, the Wagner private military group of mercenaries that had supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has apparently taken control of facilities in two key cities, Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh.
Vladimir Putin called for an end to the “armed rebellion” in a video released on Telegram, but as Wagner leader (and accused financial backer of the Internet Research Agency “troll farm”) Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened to march on Moscow, Netblocks noted that Russian ISPs were restricting access to information from Google News.
Update 3:20PM ET: Progozhin has announced the Wagner troops will return to their bases, ending the “march of justice” toward Moscow. The president of Belarus announced that it was the result of his negotiations with Progozhin.
Law enforcement officials have linked a trove of classified government documents leaked on Discord to a 21-year-old Air National Guard member, as reported earlier by NBC News. The suspect, Jack Teixeira, was arrested at his home in North Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday.Read Article >
“Today, the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Microsoft has agreed to pay over $3 million in fines for selling software to sanctioned entities and individuals in Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Russia from 2012 to 2019. The US Department of the Treasury says that “the majority of the apparent violations involved blocked Russian entities or persons located in the Crimea region of Ukraine” and that the company will be paying around $2.98 million to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (or OFAC) and $347,631 to the Department of Commerce. (It settled for $624,013 but will receive a credit for its agreement with the Treasury.)Read Article >
According to an enforcement notice from OFAC, Microsoft, Microsoft Ireland, and Microsoft Russia failed to oversee who was buying the company’s software and services through third-party partners. Basically, Microsoft sold things to companies that it could legally deal with, but then those companies turned around and sold them to companies that shouldn’t have been able to get a hold of Microsoft products. “In certain volume-licensing programs involving sales by intermediaries, Microsoft was not provided, nor did it otherwise obtain, complete or accurate information on the ultimate end customers for its products,” says the notice.
Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has lent his voice to a Ukrainian air raid app to warn citizens of incoming attacks during the ongoing conflict with Russia. “Attention. Air raid alert. Proceed to the nearest shelter,” says Hamill over Air Alert, an app linked to Ukraine’s air defense system. When the threat has passed, Hamill signs off with “The alert is over. May the Force be with you.”Read Article >
Invoking his beloved Luke Skywalker character, some of the lines contain recognizable quotes from the Star Wars franchise like “Don’t be careless. Your overconfidence is your weakness.” You can hear a few lines in the following video starting around 56 seconds in:
GSC Game World, the Ukrainian studio developing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl, says it has been hacked and that the hackers are threatening to blackmail the company, according to a statement shared on Twitter on Sunday.Read Article >
“Recently, our employee’s account for a collective work-with-images application was hacked,” GSC Game World wrote in the statement. The hackers are “threatening to use the obtained data for blackmail and intimidation,” the studio said.
Dec 21, 2022
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov has announced that over 10,000 additional Starlink terminals will be sent to Ukraine in the coming months, confirming that issues regarding how to fund the country’s critical satellite internet service have been resolved.Read Article >
The governments of several European Union countries are ready to share payment said Fedorov (who is also Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation) in an interview with Bloomberg, affirming that “As of now all financial issues have been resolved.” Fedorov did not publicly identify which governments are contributing towards the payments but confirmed that there’s currently no contract in place and that Ukraine will need to find additional funding by spring 2023.
Nov 30, 2022
The price of a Starlink satellite terminal has almost doubled in Ukraine, according to a report from the Financial Times, following increased demand for the SpaceX satellite devices and targeted Russian attacks on the country’s electrical grid that have caused communications networks to fail.Read Article >
Starlink terminals in Ukraine are set to increase from the equivalent of $385 to about $700. The monthly subscription required to use the service will also climb from $60 to $75 on December 29th according to emails sent to Ukrainian Starlink customers, though this is still cheaper than its original $100 rate, which was dropped back in August to “reflect local market conditions.” For the sake of comparison, a Starlink dish costs $599 in the US, alongside a $110 monthly subscription.
Oct 21, 2022
Look, I’ve been avoiding talking about Elon Musk’s meddling in international affairs largely because I am not expert enough in international affairs to say much of anything. But now we’ve got Fiona Hill, formerly an advisor to Donald Trump who gave testimony at his first impeachment hearing, out here suggesting that Musk is “transmitting a message for Putin.”Read Article >
This shit’s weird, dude, even for me. Musk set off an international shitposting incident by tweeting a peace proposal for the war in Ukraine. In response, sitting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy polled Twitter about whether users preferred a pro-Russia or pro-Ukraine Musk; sitting Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda likened Russia’s actions to someone stealing the wheels off a Tesla; and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Musk he’d blown his cover as a Russian agent. Love to have fun online!
Apple has removed the iOS apps belonging to VK, the technology conglomerate behind Russia’s version of Facebook called VKontakte, from its App Store globally.Read Article >
In a translated statement on its website, VK said that its apps “are blocked by Apple” but that it will “continue to develop and support iOS applications.” In response to an inquiry by The Verge, Apple spokesperson Adam Dema confirmed that VK’s apps have been removed and its developer accounts shut down.
Aug 1, 2022
As the Russian war in Ukraine drags on, electronic warfare techniques may be giving Russian forces an edge, according to some intelligence analysts.Read Article >
In the latest phase of the war, which is now entering a sixth month of combat, various observers have noted that Russian electronic warfare (EW) systems are playing a greater role.
Jul 18, 2022
Russia imposed a nearly $365 million fine (21.1 billion rubles) on Google for failing to delete YouTube videos that go against the country’s laws, as reported earlier by Reuters. In a translated press release, Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor states that YouTube didn’t follow orders to remove “prohibited content,” which includes videos “promoting extremism and terrorism,” as well as supposedly false information about the war in Ukraine.Read Article >
In March, the Roskomnadzor threatened to charge Google over its failure to remove “illegal” YouTube videos, stating the fee would start at 8 million rubles (~$94,675 USD at the time), with the possibility to climb to 20 percent of Google’s annual revenue. The 21.1 billion rubles reflects a chunk of Google’s yearly turnover in the country, but it’s unclear if Google will actually go through with paying the fine. Google didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
May 18, 2022
Google’s Russian subsidiary will file for bankruptcy, according to a report from Reuters, with the company stating it can no longer keep the branch. The Russian branch reported making 134.3 billion roubles (about $2.086 billion USD) in Russia in 2021 and employed over 100 workers.Read Article >
“The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.”
May 2, 2022
Russian troops stole almost $5 million worth of farm equipment from a John Deere dealer in the occupied city of Melitopol, Ukraine, only to discover that the machines have been shut down remotely, making them inoperable, according to a report from CNN. Some of the equipment, which comes with a remote locking feature and a built-in GPS, was tracked over 700 miles away in the Zakhan Yurt village of Chechnya.Read Article >
A source close to the situation told CNN that Russian troops gradually began taking machinery away from the dealer following their occupation of Melitopol in March. It reportedly started with two combine harvesters worth $300,000 each, a tractor, and a seeder, until troops hauled away all 27 pieces of equipment. Some of the equipment went to Chechnya, while others reportedly landed in a nearby village.
Apr 27, 2022
Chinese drone maker DJI has confirmed to The Verge that it is halting all shipments of its products to both Russia and Ukraine and will no longer provide aftersales support because it’s worried about its products being used for combat purposes during Russia’s invasion.Read Article >
It’s the first concrete action China’s DJI has taken to address the war after Ukraine Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Federov accused the company of helping Russia kill Ukrainian civilians in a roundabout fashion (by using DJI’s AeroScope drone detection system to target Ukrainian pilots on the ground, something DJI apparently never anticipated). Both countries are using DJI drones for reconnaissance, and we’ve seen reports of Ukraine turning some of them into makeshift weapons.
Apr 22, 2022
The city of Blagoveshchensk sits in the far east of Russia, some 3,500 miles from Moscow and further still from Kyiv. Across a river, the Chinese city of Heihe sprawls to the south, joined by the first Sino-Russian road bridge; beside the bridge, there’s little about the city to make the news.Read Article >
But the public affairs of the city are now laid bare for anyone willing to look in the form of 150GB of emails from the Blagoveshchensk City Administration published online by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets — just one of many data sets leaked to the organization since the invasion of Ukraine began.
Apr 13, 2022
An attack on Ukraine’s power grid was foiled by cybersecurity analysts and officials, as reported by Reuters. After investigating the methods and software used by the attackers, cybersecurity firm ESET says that it was likely carried out by a hacking group called Sandworm, which The Record reports allegedly has ties to the Russian government.Read Article >
The group planned to shut down computers that controlled substations and infrastructure belonging to a particular power company, according to the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (or CERT-UA). The hackers meant to cut off power on April 8th while also wiping the computers that would be used to try and get the grid back online.
Apr 9, 2022
Microsoft seized seven domains belonging to Strontium, also known as Fancy Bear or APT28, a Russian hacking group with ties to the country’s military intelligence agency, the company announced in a blog post (via TechCrunch). According to Microsoft, Russian spies used these sites to target Ukrainian media outlets, as well as foreign policy think tanks and government institutions located in the US and the European Union.Read Article >
Microsoft obtained a court order to take control of each domain on April 6th. It then redirected them to a sinkhole, or a server used by cybersecurity experts to capture and analyze malicious connections. The company says it has seized over 100 domains controlled by Fancy Bear before this most recent takedown.
Apr 7, 2022
A Belarus-aligned hacking group has attempted to compromise the Facebook accounts of Ukrainian military personnel and posted videos from hacked accounts calling on the Ukrainian army to surrender, according to a new security report from Meta (the parent company of Facebook).Read Article >
The hacking campaign, previously labeled “Ghostwriter” by security researchers, was carried out by a group known as UNC1151, which has been linked to the Belarusian government in research conducted by Mandiant. A February security update from Meta flagged activity from the Ghostwriter operation, but since that update, the company said that the group had attempted to compromise “dozens” more accounts, although it had only been successful in a handful of cases.
Apr 4, 2022
Russia says it will end cooperation with other nations on the International Space Station until the sanctions put on the country are lifted. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, announced in a thread on Twitter that the “restoration of normal relations between partners” on the ISS and other projects is only possible with the “complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions.”Read Article >
In translated versions of his tweets, Rogozin says he appealed the sanctions in letters to NASA, the European Space Agency, as well as the Canadian Space Agency. Rogozin also posted images of what appears to be each country’s response — the CSA confirmed the letter’s authenticity to The Verge but declined to comment any further. The Verge also reached out to the ESA but didn’t immediately hear back.
Apr 4, 2022
In two weeks, Fortnite has raised a total of $144 million for Ukraine relief efforts. Ahead of its most recent season, developer Epic Games said that it would be donating all of its proceeds from the game, along with those from Microsoft, to humanitarian efforts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for a period of two weeks.Read Article >
The game raised $36 million in its first day alone, and today, Epic revealed the final total of $144 million. The funds are being put towards several aid groups, including Direct Relief, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Food Programme.
Mar 30, 2022
Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has threatened to fine Google over its failure to follow the country’s orders to remove certain “illegal” YouTube videos, as first reported by The Washington Post. In a translated version of its post on Telegram, the Roskomnadzor warns it may fine the tech company up to 8 million rubles (about $94,675 USD), an amount that will increase to 20 percent of Google’s annual revenue in case of a repeat offense.Read Article >
The Roskomnadzor alleges YouTube “promotes the distribution of false content” about what it calls the country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, and it accuses the platform of “discrediting” the Russian army. It also says YouTube houses “extremist” content “with calls to carry out violent actions against Russian servicemen.”
Mar 29, 2022
Yandex, the multi-billion dollar Russian tech company that’s been operating a small fleet of autonomous vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, laid off over two dozen US-based workers earlier this month, claiming that its vehicle licenses were suspended by Michigan’s state regulators, The Verge has learned. But Michigan says this just isn’t true.Read Article >
In the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Yandex paused its AV testing in Ann Arbor, as well as its tests with six-wheeled delivery robots at several college campuses in Ohio and Arizona. But the pause was only supposed to be temporary — the company said it hoped to resume those operations at a later date.