Threat Intelligence Manager at Huntress Labs
Joe Slowik has over 15 years of experience across multiple information security domains. Currently, Joe leads threat intelligence, hunting, and detection engineering work at Huntress. Previously, Joe has led intelligence and detection work at Gigamon, performed independent threat research at DomainTools and Dragos, and led incident response operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Joe started in information security through various roles in the US Navy.
The war in Ukraine since its inception - nearly a decade ago - features a number of significant lessons in how and where cyber operations align with physical conflict. One area of the conflict that has received less scrutiny is the role private organizations have played in very active aspects of ongoing operations. Commercial entities, such as major software providers and security firms, have played various roles throughout the long Russian invasion, from direct support to Ukrainian defensive efforts to indirect enablement of Ukrainian capabilities.
This presentation will analyze how such non-state support, from organizations ranging from Microsoft to Starlink to Amazon, has materially impacted the conflict, and what its implications may be for identifying belligerents within cyber and information space more broadly. Through this discussion, we will arrive at a murky endpoint where private organizations work on behalf of specific parties of a conflict, yet their responsibility for actions (and status as combatants) remains unclear. This scenario is further confused by the variety of operational “free agents” reporting on and disclosing significant aspects of the ongoing cyber aspects of the conflict, while trying to refrain from direct engagement.
From this discussion, attendees will emerge with a more nuanced understanding of the implications of support for belligerents in non-physical spaces. Significantly, we will also briefly explore how long-term success in information battlefields appears to be dependent on commercial entity support - an interesting development in non-state actor involvement in war. While the precise risks posed by such intervention remain unknown, the possibilities for retaliation or direct action against such supporting entities will increase as the war continues - with follow-on consequences yet to be determined.