Welcome to Ukraine Week here at The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: Censoring the Russian internet, Snap fears for hundreds of Ukrainian employees, and Eugene Kaspersky acts like a ****.
1. ICANN, but IWONT
First up this week: Ukraine has asked ICANN to drop Russia from the DNS. Andrii Nabok, the Ukrainian representative of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee argues a DNS blockage would “help users seek for reliable information in alternative domain zones, preventing propaganda and disinformation.”
Given today’s confirmation that Muscovite K12 students had been arrested for laying flowers at the Ukrainian embassy, this goal seems all the more laudable. But frankly, a moment’s thought says it’s a bad idea.
Analysis: “The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”
John Gilmore was right. Such a move would inevitably fail. And there’s a real risk of undesirable, unintended consequences.
Kat Bouza and Noah Shachtman: Ukraine Pushes to Unplug Russia From the Internet
Ukraine’s request to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) seeks to revoke domains issued in Russia and shut down primary Domain Name System (DNS) servers in the country. [It] would send a strong message to a regime pumping out digital propaganda.
The DNS root zone is a crucial element of the overall functionality of the internet, responsible for handling queries to top-level domains — such as .com, and country-specific domains like Russia’s .ru. Removing Russia’s access to this cluster of servers would prevent Russian internet-service providers from communicating.
But … the request has the potential to do more harm than good. … Representatives for ICANN … declined to comment.
But the request is pretty naïve, thinks this Anonymous Coward:
All they would have to do is get the ISPs to add a zone to their DNS that says “ru. IN NS xxxx” and then for all their users, any requests for a .ru domain would be directed to xxxx
OK, the rest of the world would miss out, but I doubt that they would care.
Is there a better way? ArmoredDragon breathes fire:
A better way … is to ask western certificate authorities to revoke all [Russian] certificates. Then ask the major OS and browser vendors to remove any CAs that don’t comply.
That would really **** with them because there’s nothing [Russia] can do about that. And it would even **** with Russia’s ability to do business with Chinese companies and Chinese customers.
2. Fear for 300 Ukraine Employees at Snap
Snap, Inc.—formerly Snapchat—owns the Ukrainian company that created the technology used in the real-time video shenanigans behind “I’m not a cat.” It has hundreds of employees in Kyiv and Odesa.
Analysis: Solidarity doesn’t stop wars, but Sanctions Might
This very human DevOps story is but a footnote to the wider picture of tech companies acting to echo Western governments’ sanctions. It’ll cause us a little pain, but that’s nothing compared to the suffering felt by Ukrainians. And it’ll be worthwhile if it shortens the war.
J. Clara Chan: Three hundred Snap employees are from Ukraine
In a public note, … Snap — the parent company of Snapchat — said … that 300 of Snap’s “most creative and talented team members” are from Ukraine, … the birthplace of Looksery, the augmented reality platform that Snap acquired in 2015. … Snap said it has pledged over $15 million in humanitarian aid to support Ukraine. … The company is also providing emergency assistance to employees who need help safely relocating.
“We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian team members and the people of Ukraine. … This is a devastating conflict with far-reaching consequences. … It is a direct threat to many of our team members and their families.
“Over many years working with our Ukrainian colleagues and friends, we have gotten to know the inventiveness, strength, and resilience of the Ukrainian people. … We will continue to work tirelessly to help our Ukrainian team members and their families, support our Snapchat community, and determine how we can help make positive contributions to the humanitarian efforts underway.”
It’s bang on trend, reports Corinne Reichert:
Snapchat has followed suit after Facebook, Twitter and YouTube began pausing ads on Friday, saying it has now stopped all advertising running in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. … The Snapchat app remains live in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, [but] Snap is monitoring the platform for misinformation or other misuse.
Apple has also halted sales of its products in Russia, as well as online transactions, Apple Pay and some Apple Maps features. Google [is] Temporarily disabling some live Google Maps features, adding an SOS alert to Search and blocking Russian state-controlled media. It said Google Pay “may become unavailable.”
But don’t hang up on Dade “+++ATH” Hayes: [ask your parents]
In terms of any financial sacrifice from the foregone advertising opportunities, it isn’t clear that all that much is at stake for Snap. … While the company’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine situation is clear and emphatic, it is also an easier one for Snap to take than for many of its tech rivals.
3. Yevgeny Valentinovich ‘Eugene’ Kaspersky has Chosen the Side of the Oppressor
The figurehead eponym of AO Kaspersky Lab is being publicly shamed for comments he made about the war in Ukraine. In stark contrast to Snap’s statement, he is accused of overt neutrality, minimizing the war’s severity—and even of shoehorning in some marketing.
Desmond Tutu was right. But, while it’s tempting to “cancel” Eugene, dial down the emotion and think instead about your security posture. If you use Kaspersky products internally, what risks are you exposing your organization to? How might the Russian government exert pressure on the company to compromise your network?
James Coker: Eugene Kaspersky’s Statement Provokes Controversy
Cybersecurity industry veteran Eugene Kaspersky has provoked a strong reaction from leading figures in the sector. … Kaspersky, CEO of the Russian-headquartered IT security vendor of the same name, broke his silence on the conflict:
“We welcome the start of negotiations to resolve the current situation in Ukraine and hope that they will lead to a cessation of hostilities and a compromise. We believe that peaceful dialogue is the only possible instrument for resolving conflicts. War isn’t good for anyone. … The main thing we can do in this situation is provide uninterrupted functioning of our products and services.”
His description of the conflict as a “situation” and an apparent attempt to advertise his firm led to a number of furious responses. … Following Kaspersky’s tweet, the hashtag #BoycottKaspersky appeared.
With a balanced view, it’s Nick Farrell:
Kaspersky sits on the fence … in Russia it is not a good idea to have a view. [But] Whoever is advising Kaspersky on PR might need to have a rethink.
After all a compromise is [not] always possible when one side is firing missiles into residential areas. If he applied the same premise with ransomware, he would be suggesting, … “It is better that you talk to the people who are holding your servers hostage.” … How much is Kaspersky, the company, influenced by the Russian government?
Does your shop use Kaspersky? Nick Lange cuts to the chase:
I would like to remind all readers that, in case of war, … software with access to companies and the capacity to be updated worldwide in matter of hours at the same time is a high class target to get forced to cooperate by an autocratic government.
The Moral of the Story: If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
You have been reading The Long View by Richi Jennings. You can contact him at @RiChi or [email protected].
Image: Brandon Morales (via Unsplash; leveled and cropped)