Microsoft has spent over $100 million in providing technology support to the Ukrainian government during the Russian conflict.
The government was running entirely on-premise, with server rooms stored in government buildings. Microsoft said it helped moved 16 of the 17 government ministries to the cloud, as well as Ukrainian companies, although Smith didn’t specify which.
Smith said Microsoft's investment in European data centres, which has totalled $12 billion over the last two years, ultimately proved pivotal to the Ukrainian support effort, with each of those migrated government agencies now working on clouds hosted abroad.
“In the Baltics and other countries today, governments are recognising that you are most safe when people don't know where your data is, when you can move it at lightspeed, when you can move it across borders, and it is something that we have done as a company for the Ukrainian government, at no charge,” said Smith. “We've provided now more than $100 million of technology support and services without asking to be paid a penny.”
He also said that the first shells in the Ukraine-Russia war were fired in cyber space. The first weapon was fired simultaneously by the Russian army at 300 targets across the Ukrainian government, IT companies, banks, and agricultural companies.
The company says this has effectively created a new front line which runs through Redmond, Washington, where Microsoft’s Threat Intelligence Centre analysts are monitoring these attacks.
Microsoft has identified coordinated attacks from seven different units in three different branches of the Russian government; namely the GRU, its military intelligence division, the SPR foreign intelligence agency, and the FSP, a domestic intelligence agency.
Smith claimed the war has shown how cyber warfare has become an integral part of modern day fighting. Much like how amphibious warfare involves attacks combining land, sea, and air, cyber attacks have proven to be a highly effective fourth attack vector.
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“For example, we saw how within a matter of days, the Russians would go from taking down a network in a nuclear power plant to attacking that nuclear power plant. We would see how they would go from trying to disrupt the network for a city around an airport to then trying to attack and take possession of the airport,” said Smith.
Smith also revealed Microsoft is now providing services to aid in the collection, preservation, and analysis of data relating to possible war crimes. This will be made available, free of charge, to the prosecutor of the UN and the International Criminal Court, in the hope that individuals can be held accountable for their actions, in a similar style to World War Two's Nuremberg Trials.
“It's why we're doing the same thing to support the Ukrainian government,” said Smith. “It's why we're doing the same thing to support Amal Clooney and her legal team that is working with and for the UN and Ukraine to make sure that there is an opportunity for history to remember what has happened here, and for people to be accountable for what was done.”
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Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.