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SICSS 2022 Bologna - People

An amazing group of participants, TAs, teachers and speakers for the 2022 edition of #SicssBologna

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Commercial Drones in the context of the Ukrainian conflict by Anatolie Luca

After the invasion of Ukraine from the Russian armed forces on February 24, 2022, experts and analysts have focused their investigations on the use of both sides' military force and their weapons. On the other hand, we intend to concentrate our analysis on technologies and instruments observed on the battlefield generally used for commercial activities that became important in shaping the conflict's tactics and dynamics, especially in the battle of Kyiv and its outskirts.
While weaponised Ukrainian-made drones have appeared on the battlefield since 2015, the newly formed Territorial Defence Forces, composed mainly of reservists and civilian volunteers, repurposed the role of the commercial off-the-shelf drones. These drones are easy to fly and require just minutes to learn; equipped with personal smartphones and command controls, they are primarily used for reconnaissance missions to spy on Russian logistics and supply columns or adjust fire for the Ukrainian artillery batteries miles away from the front. Some are also fitted with thermal cameras and therefore adequate for night operations into the enemy's lines.

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The DJI drones observed on the battlefield can reach up to 60 km per hour, and considering their small size (25 cm x 25 cm), their interception becomes quite tricky. Experts domain claim that there are only a few tactics in trying to prevent their operations, such as using guns and shooting them down or trying to jam the signal (cell phone or drone jamming) that is controlling the drone from the pilot.
Ukrainian soldiers also employ these commercial drones to clear their way along the next kilometres of road, guaranteeing safer mobility for their small mechanised infantry. The suburbs of Kyiv presented the perfect environment to operate such commercial tech, considering their operational capability, these drones are capable of flying between 5-12 km away from the controller, while mid-range drones can fly between 0.5-3 km, allowing their control from a less dangerous environment.
Some of the civilian drones have also facilitated the live documentation of the Russian war crimes in the North-West of Kyiv. Ukraine's Territorial Defence drone units, who were just 500 meters away, filmed the killing of an unarmed civilian on the E40 highway near Kyiv, which later became viral on the Internet.
Commercial drones have proved valuable to Ukraine, giving the asymmetry of forces compared to the gargantuan Russian military. However, it is still too early to claim that drones make a substantial difference in combat operations (as they need to be utilised in combinations with other systems). For the Ukrainian Army, drone advantage will not remain permanent, as the Russian military learns from its mistakes, it can add new abilities to destroy them or jam the transmissions they rely on. At the same time, creative Ukrainian engineers, software professionals and drone enthusiasts are developing their designs. Some of them are already capable of dropping grenades and anti-tank shells, and systems such as Delta, a complex of sensors along the war zone, can live-update a digital map so commanders can spot opponents' movements as they occur. This system connected to Starlink, supplied by Elon Musk, allows "high data rate" activities for the screen tracking of the Russian armed forces movement that the Ukrainian military leaders can use for "situational awareness" and further planning.

The Russian View of the Conflict

The new headlines for the query "Ukraine" (“Украина” in Russian) in the main Russian search engine Yandex for the period from the evening of March 4 to noon on March 10 were analyzed.
The Yandex News service is criticized in Russia for artificially placing articles in the news notes section only from state-affiliated (directly or indirectly) media. Independent media do not find a place on the pages of the Yandex News service.
Reliance on this source of information allows to understand how the Russian government is framing the conflict in Ukraine for its domestic audienc

The Russian-Ukrainian War Dashboard

Dashboard on the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine by our UniBo graduates and graduate students at UniBo. The team behind the dashboard keeps updating it and adding new data source.

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Let’s make some basic points clear about the role of cyberattacks in Russia attack to Ukraine and potential responses

In this Russian invasion of Ukraine, as the public has become aware of, cyberattacks of the most diverse kind, scope and intensity have been at the forefront. Mainstream media have been quick to pinpoint at the effects of cyberattacks everywhere, in Ukraine and elsewhere, even when there were actually no cyberattack. The Biden Administration has even hinted at responding to the invasion by unlashing a massive cyber offensive against Russia, just to quickly backtrack.
The reason for confusion and misunderstanding is due to two factors: the difference between strategic and tactical level cyberattacks and the "attack surface" of Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU.

Tactical vs. Strategic cyber attacks
Tactical cyberattacks are incorporated in what used to be "electronic warfare" (EW), i.e. disrupting electronic communications of the enemy. Russia has amply used tactical cyberattacks to make it difficult, almost impossible, for Ukrainian forces to communicate on the battlefield and coordinate their response and she's been quite successful.
Differently a strategic cyber offensive from the US and/or its allies to banks, electric grids and other infrastructures in Russia would be just short of a small nuclear strike or a major bombing raid with conventional ordinance. It would be impossible for Russia not to consider that as a direct attack on its soil and not to respond in kind against the territory of the United States and/or allied countries,with a serious impact on civilians.

A different attack surface
Of course, the attack surface, i.e. how many valuable targets to hit there are, of Russia, the US and EU is very different. Russia could target private businesses and the economy in the US and Europe, stay clear of their strategic infrastructures, energy and military targets and still cause a lot of headaches for both the US and the EU. Vice versa, the EU and the US do not have the same variety and number of significant cyber-targets in Russia that can be hit and cause enough pain to the Russians and their leaders' considerable pain so that they may relent with the invasion, unless the US and the EU decided to go against Russia's strategic cyber-targets, but that would take us back to the
square one mentioned before and it could lead to dangerous escalation even outside cyberspace. So, no easy option for the West in the cyber domain.

Giampiero Giacomello
Center for Computational Social Sciences – CSSC
University of Bologna

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Alma Mater Computational Social Science Center (CSSC)

Computational social science refers to the academic sub-disciplines concerned with computational approaches to the social sciences.
This means that computers are used to model, simulate, and analyze social phenomena. Fields include computational economics, computational sociology, cliodynamics, culturomics, and the automated analysis of contents, in social and traditional media.
It focuses on investigating social and behavioral relationships and interactions through social simulation, modeling, network analysis, and media analysis.

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