Hillicon Valley — Ukraine: Russian cyberattacks could be war crimes

A top Ukrainian cyber official said his country is weighing whether Russian cyberattacks that recently targeted its critical infrastructure could be classified as war crimes.

Meanwhile, Virgin Orbit faced a setback after failing to launch its first set of satellites from the U.K.

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Russian cyberattacks could fall under war crimes

Ukraine is considering whether recent Russian cyberattacks targeting its critical infrastructure could fall under war crimes, a top Ukrainian cyber official told Politico.

Victor Zhora, Ukraine’s chief digital transformation officer, argued that since Russia used cyberattacks to support its kinetic military operations against Ukraine, the digital attacks should also be considered as war crimes against its citizens.

“When we observe the situation in cyberspace we notice some coordination between kinetic strikes and cyberattacks, and since the majority of kinetic attacks are organized against civilians — being a direct act of war crime — supportive actions in cyber can be considered as war crimes,” Zhora said.

  • He cited last year’s Russian attacks against Ukraine’s largest private energy investor DTEK as an example of when cyberattacks are used in conjunction with kinetic warfare. 

  • “Their thermal power plant was shelled, and simultaneously, their corporate network was attacked,” Zhora said. “It’s directed and planned activity from Russians, which they did both in conventional domain and in cyber domain.”

Read more here.

Virgin launch suffers loss of nine satellites

Virgin Orbit’s attempt to make history by launching the first set of satellites from British soil Monday night did not go as planned, resulting in the loss of all nine satellites on board.

Cosmic Girl, a modified 747, taxied toward history as it took off at 5:02 p.m. ET from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, England, hoping to successfully christen a new spaceport. Once it reached 35,000 feet in the air, the aircraft deployed a rocket, called LauncherOne, which would then launch its payloads into space.

  • Tucked inside LauncherOne’s payload fairing were nine small satellites, representing seven different customers. The two-stage rocket is specially designed to horizontally launch small satellites into orbit. Rather than a traditional rocket, which lifts off vertically from a launch pad, the LauncherOne is engineered to be strapped to a plane and ignited at a certain altitude before depositing its payloads into their designated orbits.  

  • The rocket’s first and second stages separated as planned, with the rocket’s upper stage completing a nearly five-minute burn before transitioning into a long coast ahead of payload deployment. After ignition, it soon became clear that something wasn’t right.

Read more here.

META EXPANDS TEEN AD RESTRICTIONS

Advertisers won’t be able to target teen users on Facebook and Instagram based on their engagement on the apps starting next month, Meta announced Tuesday.

The change is part of a series of updates Meta is making in the next couple of months for teen users on its social media apps.

The update means a teen’s previous engagement, such as posts and pages they have liked, will not inform the types of ads they see on the apps.

The update rolling out in February will also remove gender as an option for advertisers to reach teens. Meta previously removed the ability for advertisers to target teens based on their interest and activities. The company said age and location will now be the only information about a teen user that it will use to target ads.

Read more here.

BITS & PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Royal PR battle rages as Harry spares no one

Notable links from around the web: 

Twitter blocks hashtags used to promote child sex abuse material after NBC News review (NBC News / Ben Goggin)

A.I. Is Becoming More Conversational. But Will It Get More Honest? (The New York Times / Cade Metz)

Elon Musk’s Starlink is only the beginning (Vox / Rebecca Heilweil)

ONE MORE THING

Lawmakers tell ESPN to drop TikTok as sponsor

Two lawmakers are calling on ESPN to drop TikTok as a sponsor for its content after the social media platform backed halftime shows for recent NCAA college football games.

Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) sent a letter to ESPN CEO James Pitaro on Monday to ask him for information about ESPN’s decision-making process surrounding the inclusion of TikTok as a sponsor.

Semafor first reported the letter.

More than a dozen states have taken action to ban TikTok on state government-issued devices in light of concerns about data security on the platform. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, and some lawmakers have expressed concerns that users’ data on the platform could be shared with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Read more here.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Technology and Cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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