The Red Cross recently released ethical guidelines for civilian hackers involved in armed conflicts, a move that has been met with scorn by hacktivist groups in Ukraine and Russia.
Pro-Ukrainian hackers defaced the website of the Russian Red Cross branch in protest, dismissing the guidelines as irrelevant in the context of war. The hacktivists argued that war knows no rules, and they would use any means available to harm their enemies. Other Ukrainian hacker groups echoed this sentiment, emphasizing their disregard for the Red Cross guidelines.
The Red Cross guidelines outlined eight “humanitarian law-based rules” designed to limit the impact of cyberattacks on civilians and certain infrastructure. Despite these rules, hacktivist groups have not adhered to them during the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. The guidelines also suggested that cyberattacks could be a more humane way to target critical and civilian infrastructure compared to traditional warfare methods like bombings.
However, hacktivist Sean Townsend from the Ukrainian Cyber Alliance expressed the view that the Red Cross should focus more on addressing Russia’s official policies toward Ukraine, which include acts of violence and human rights abuses.
In response to the guidelines, some pro-Russian hacking groups, such as Killnet and Anonymous Sudan, openly stated their intention to ignore them, considering the rules impractical and unavoidable to break. The Belarusian Cyber Partisans did not directly address the guidelines but recently hacked the Red Cross’s Belarusian branch’s website, listing crimes they alleged the organization committed against the people of Belarus and Ukraine.
This tension highlights the complex challenges of regulating cyber activities in the context of armed conflicts and the differing perspectives of hacktivist groups and humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.