Ukraine VIINA Dashboard, Crowdsourcing for Refugees, Protestware, More: Ukraine Update, Afternoon March 19, 2022


George Mason University: New web-based app maps violence in Ukraine based on in-country news sources. “A new web-based app developed by a George Mason University professor visualizes near-real-time data collected from media sources on the ground in Ukraine. The app allows users to filter an interactive map of rapidly developing events in specific neighborhoods throughout the besieged country. A link to the original media outlet accompanies each data point representing a military or nonmilitary event.”


Al Jazeera: Last apps standing? Telegram, WhatsApp duck Russia bans. “Chat platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram have avoided being blocked by Russia – unlike some of the world’s biggest social networks – in a tenuous tolerance that experts warn could end suddenly.”

AFP: Telegram booms as Russia’s digital landscape shrinks. “The Telegram messaging app has become a go-to platform since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite concerns over its data security and defenses against misinformation. It has benefitted from the gap left by Russia’s blocking of Facebook and Instagram, offering a platform for mass messaging in a way similar to social media. The platform also provides one of the last windows on Russia, but also an open channel to the horrors facing an under siege Ukraine.”


Engadget: Impostor poses as Ukraine’s Prime Minister in video call with UK defense secretary. “The British defense secretary has ordered an inquiry into a video call he received on Thursday from an imposter pretending to be Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister. In a series of tweets, the Right Honorable Ben Wallace disclosed that the man asked ‘several misleading questions’ and he eventually ended the call after becoming suspicious. The official described the hoax as a ‘desperate attempt’, and pinned the blame on Russia.”

Mashable: ‘honors’ Putin with Wikipedia page redirect. “The URL often redirects visitors to whomever its owner, Brian Connelly, deems as the biggest ‘loser’ of the moment. Connelly has previously shared that he registered back in 1995. Unsure of what type of website to develop for the domain name, he has been using redirects in order to troll world-renowned losers ever since.”

BBC: Ukraine: How crowdsourcing is rescuing people from the war zone. “The UN says more than three million people have have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion just over three weeks ago. So how do people actually find safe passage out of the country? One way is via transport arranged by dozens of volunteers based thousands of miles away, who liaise with fellow volunteers in Ukraine. They, in turn, send information in real-time about safe roads to drivers who can rescue busloads of people. But even using this method, travelling is not without considerable danger.”

Joe: Inside the Facebook groups where desperate Ukrainians are searching for spare rooms. “Ukrainian refugees are making desperate pleas on social media – writing of their fear of being raped, their grief at losing their homes and livelihoods, and their fear about what the future holds for their loved ones. They are also expressing concern about being a ‘burden’ on potential hosts in this country and are listing all the ways in which they could help around the house from baking to babysitting.”

Independent: The YouTube channels revealing what ordinary Russians really think of the war: ‘I want to show every perspective’. “…one forum – at least so far – remains unblocked: YouTube. And on certain channels, one can still get a glimpse of what the Russian people are thinking. One such channel is 1420, where a 21-year-old man named Daniil wanders the streets of Moscow, collecting pedestrians’ comments on the latest news. The channel provides a fascinating chronology of Muscovites’ opinions, especially because Daniil posts so often. Watching his videos, we learn how Russians feel before the war, after it starts, one week in, two weeks in – and in the meantime, more and more restrictions of speech emerge from the Kremlin, to which the pedestrians respond in real time. Many become more reticent, but an impressive few become bolder.”


Krebs on Security: Pro-Ukraine ‘Protestware’ Pushes Antiwar Ads, Geo-Targeted Malware. “Researchers are tracking a number of open-source ‘protestware’ projects on GitHub that have recently altered their code to display ‘Stand with Ukraine’ messages for users, or basic facts about the carnage in Ukraine. The group also is tracking several code packages that were recently modified to erase files on computers that appear to be coming from Russian or Belarusian Internet addresses.”

Ars Technica: Leaked ransomware documents show Conti helping Putin from the shadows. “For years, Russia’s cybercrime groups have acted with relative impunity. The Kremlin and local law enforcement have largely turned a blind eye to disruptive ransomware attacks as long as they didn’t target Russian companies. Despite direct pressure on Vladimir Putin to tackle ransomware groups, they’re still intimately tied to Russia’s interests. A recent leak from one of the most notorious such groups provides a glimpse into the nature of those ties—and just how tenuous they may be.”

Techdirt: Ukrainian Soldier Moves To Trademark ‘Russian Warship, Go Fuck Yourself” Because Of Course. “You may recall the name Roman Gribov. He was one of several soldiers stationed on Snake Island in the Black Sea. When Russian warships began their part of the assualt of their sovereign neighbor, those warships communicated with Gribov, demanding that he and his fellow soldiers surrender. While staring down the barrel of the Russian Navy, Gribov offered up what is now an iconic response: ‘Russian warship… go fuck yourself!’ From there, the rebuttal took on meme status…. Which perhaps partially explains why Gribov, thorugh his family, is attempting to trademark the now iconic verbal middle finger.


Business Insider: The splinternet in pictures: What the internet looks like for Russians right now. “To see what the internet looks like for users inside Russia, Insider tracked the DNS rejections of various Russian ISPs, using the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) explorer. Insider worked with OONI’s researchers as well as analysts at Top10VPN who were able to take a look at what the BBC news site looks like in Russia using the Astrill Virtual Private Network (VPN).”


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