Digital technology’s role in war and peace: Microsoft shares efforts amid war in Ukraine

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With inquiries on these aspects, Microsoft shared its work which involves protecting Ukraine from cyberattacks and state-sponsored disinformation, protecting its own employees, and aiding humanitarian programs.

The world is closely following the attack on Ukraine, horrified at the tragic stories of destruction and loss. This, however, is more than kinetic warfare with the battle ensuing simultaneously in the digital platform. While it may not be as visible as the kinetic war, it is apparent that internet-based disinformation and cyberattacks are trying to maximize the digital platforms in pushing this conflict.

With inquiries on these aspects, Microsoft shared its work which involves protecting Ukraine from cyberattacks and state-sponsored disinformation, protecting its own employees, and aiding humanitarian programs. These efforts highlight that digital technology has a critical role to play, not only in war but also in peace. (Microsoft, however, emphasizes that as a company, they need to be in close coordination with the government or state.) 

Provide Cyberattack Protection

Microsoft shares that weeks and months before the missile launch on February 24, there had already been a mounting cyber activity directed against Ukrainian targets. For instance, hours before tank movements, Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) had already spotted a fresh round of cyberattacks against the digital infrastructure of Ukraine. There were also cyberattacks on its civilian digital sectors, including the agriculture, emergency response services, humanitarian aid, and energy sector, among others. There were also attempts to steal a bulk of data, including data for health and government.  

Helping defend governments against cyberattacks being one of its primary responsibilities, Microsoft immediately alerted the Ukrainian government of the destructive attacks. It gave technical advice on preventing the progress of the new malware package. They are also providing the Ukrainian government with intelligence on the recent threats and possible defenses to attacks on multiple government agencies, including the military institutions and manufacturers. 

Deny the use of Platform for Disinformation

The use of disinformation campaigns is not a novelty in wars. As kinetic warfare was launched, disinformation that plants discord is simultaneously progressing in the information ecosystem. As such, Microsoft makes efforts to minimize the exposure of the Russian state propaganda and make sure that its own platform would not provide avenues for these operations to prosper, even unintentionally. As such, not only will Microsoft ban advertisements on these state-owned sites, it will also refuse to place any ad in its ad network on RT and Sputnik.   

Further, in line with the EU’s decision to ban disinformation in Europe, the Microsoft Start platform will not be displaying any content from the state-sponsored RT and Sputnik. Aside from removing the RT news apps in the app store, the said sites would also be deranked. 

Involve in Humanitarian Efforts

The effects of war on individuals and families are among the most visible tragedies brought about by these conflicts. The grief of civilians fleeing from conflict zones requires the help of a larger scale. As such, not only did Microsoft mobilize its resources to help the people (in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and various UN agencies), it also maximized its technology and skills to help the public connect with humanitarian organizations to support. 

Safeguard all employees

Microsoft expressed the importance of the safety of all its employees even when they belong to or are located on conflicting sides of this war. With employees in/from Ukraine and Russia, Microsoft takes the initiative to protect its employees. Efforts are made to support them and their families and those who need to flee from Ukraine for safety. Similarly, Microsoft commits to safeguard employees in/ from Russia from potential discrimination due to their employer or government’s actions.