The first months of 2023 have been enormously challenging for me as we crossed-over the fist full year of cyberwar against Russia. I still remember the first big mission we undertook as a team, Operation Dark Fiber I. We attacked Rostelecom's edge and metro-router networks and disabled over 7,000 routers in the period of 10 days. Rostelecom would report a 41-hour long outage in their core networks, and was considered a success for the length of network outage and number of sites impacted in a short time.
Before the attack I met with my pastor and sought his understanding if not also his blessing on the path I had chosen to take. I was nervous as hell but also committed by that point, and I did my best to explain what I was about to do, why, how it would help and why I felt that God had set me upon this path. He was very courteous as always, and challenged me with a number of questions I think was designed to get at the truth of why I was doing this. It was fascinating because I had never really explored deeply this conviction I felt about fighting for a pepole on the other side of the world where I had never been.
In summary it came down to knowing in my heart that Putin was as evil and genocidal as Hitler was in WWII, and having studied war history for much of my life, the images of the holocaust, the bataan death march and books by Steven Ambrose describing all of the horrors of war are permanently are imprinted on my mind. When I saw images of the Bucca massacre and listened to the survivors stories of mass-rape, murder and terror, something in my mind changed and I knew exactly what I had to do. I did not know exactly How yet, but it was the most profound feeling of certainty I have ever had in my life.
I also have close friends in Ukraine, and many more now after the first year of the war. I have received more than a few phone calls with bad news that left me shaking in anger. For the first time in my life the strange path that I had taken through the world finally made sense to me. It was God. I could never explain why I know that, I just know that I have never been so sure of something in all of my life. I know that there is nothing more meaningful that I could be doing right now, as every minute of every day there are Ukrainians being raped, tortured, murdered, enslaved and culturally annihilated. I find it strange when people ask me why I am doing this, as I could not image doing anything else.
My pastor ended-up being supportive of my choice, though he did not bless my journey. At the time that stung pretty hard, but I know that he did not fully understand what I was about to do. Neither did I really, I just knew it had to be done and that I could help with all the years of experience in building the Internet in the United States. I did not think I was a hacker when I started the war as I had never hacked a site in my life. One year later and I cannot even keep straight how many missions we have done. It is like living in a movie where I don't know the ending.
A year later without any real time off the line, every day is hard. Being a civilian in charge of war assets that nation states would pay millions for, and which would require a top secret clearance to see while not being able to keep all of the utilities on is a sad irony at best. None the less the teams morale is high and we are getting close to being ready for the counter-offensive. It is an honor to fight for the freedom and people of Ukraine. I cannot imagine doing anything else.