In addition to Russian entities, Anonymous says it is now targeting some Western companies.
Jakub Porzycki | Nurfoto | Nurfoto | fake images
The “hacktivist” collective known as Anonymous said it has a new target in its “cyber war” against Russia — Western businesses that are still doing business there.
A post on March 21 From a Twitter account called @YourAnonTV he declared: “We call on all companies that continue to operate in Russia by paying taxes to the budget of the criminal Kremlin regime: Withdraw from Russia!”
The tweet, which has received more than 23,000 likes, gave companies 48 hours to comply.
The threat, which later repeated on other Anonymous-affiliated Twitter accountsincluded a photo with the logos of some 40 companies, including household names like Burger King, Subway and General Mills.
The account later tagged more businesses in the post, apparently warning them that they, too, could be targeted soon.
CNBC has contacted the companies mentioned in this story for comment. Most of the responses reflected the press releases published by the companies, which are linked throughout this story, that were published after the publications.
The tire firm Bridgestone and Dunkin’ said that when Anonymous attacked them, they had already publicly announced that they were taking business out of Russia.
Both companies also responded directly to Anonymous on Twitter. Bridgestone’s response linked to a Press releaseand Dunkin’ linked to media coverage of his decision, both prior to the publication of Anonymous.
Twitter users also pointed out that other companies, such as Citrix, had already announced similar measures. A blog published on the Citrix website states, “Unfortunately, we see a lot of inaccurate reporting on social and traditional media about Citrix’s operations in Russia.”
Three target oilfield service companies: halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger — had also already aired announcements about its Russian business operations. The statements continued a Washington Post article which implored readers to stop investing in companies seen as “financing Putin’s war”.
Cyberattacks during the “fog of war” are dangerous, said Marianne Bailey, a cybersecurity partner at consulting firm Guidehouse and a former cybersecurity executive at the US National Security Agency.
“A cyber counterattack … could be aimed at the wrong place,” he said.
However, it is also possible that Anonymous was not impressed by some of this company’s promises. Some companies, including Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and Schlumberger, did not score well on a list of businesses compiled by the Yale School of Management. The list ranks some 500 companies based on whether the companies stopped or continued operations in Russia, giving them school-style letter grades.
Notably, Bridgestone’s decision received an “A” and Dunkin’ a “B” on the Yale list.
Many companies that received “Fs” on the Yale List appeared on a second anonymous Twitter post published on March 24. This post focused on a new, seemingly updated list of companies that included Emirates airline, French garden retailer Leroy Merlin, and essential oils company Young Living.
Several companies caught in Anonymous’s crosshairs soon announced that they were cutting ties with Russia, including the Canadian oil services company. Calfrac Well Services and manufacturer of medical devices Geberit Group – the latter includes hashtags for Anonymous and Yale in its Twitter announcement.
French sporting goods company Decathlon this week it announced it would also close stores in Russia. But Anonymous had already taken credit for shutting down its Russian website, along with the sites of Leroy Merlin and the French supermarket company Auchan.
Jeremiah Fowler, co-founder of cybersecurity firm Security Discovery, said his investigation determined that Anonymous also successfully hacked into a database belonging to Leroy Merlin.
“I am absolutely sure [Anonymous] I found it,” he said, saying the collective left messages and references within the data.
Anonymous also claimed last week that hacked into a database of another target company, the Swiss food and beverage corporation Nestlé. However, Nestle told CNBC that these claims were “baseless.” website design and technology gizmodo reported that Nestlé said it accidentally leaked its own information in February.
It is unclear whether Anonymous’s threats influenced corporate decisions to cease operations in Russia.
Indeed, other forces were also at play, including online calls to boycott some of the corporations targeted in recent weeks.
Activists hold a protest against Koch Industries on June 5, 2014 in New York City. The US conglomerate was one of the few companies targeted by both posts from the @YourAnonTV Twitter account. The company also received an “F” on the Yale list for failing to withdraw its business operations from Russia.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | fake images
After being attacked by Anonymous, the French car manufacturer Renault announced that it was suspending activities at a Moscow manufacturing plant. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly singled out Renault, as well as Nestle, during televised speeches to European governments and citizens.
A spokesperson for the Renault company told CNBC that their decision had nothing to do with Anonymous.
Other companies have made moral arguments for continuing to operate in Russia. auchan, in a press release issued this weekhe said the Russians “bear no personal responsibility for the outbreak of this war. Abandoning our employees, their families and our customers is not the choice we have made.”
Unlike McDonald’s, which has about 84% of its outlets in Russia, companies such as Burger King, Subway and Papa John’s often operate there through franchise agreements. Burger King said it has demanded its main franchise operator suspend restaurant operations in Russia, but “they have refused.”
Alexander Sayganov | SOUP | Light Rocket | fake images
Force majeure clauses, which allow parties to terminate a contract due to circumstances such as natural disasters or acts of terrorism, do not apply here, Antel said. Neither do clauses covering sanctions, which when present, generally apply only if the parties to the contract are sanctioned, not the country where they are located, he said.
Antel said that franchisors probably do not have the legal right to close franchises in Russia. But he said he expects franchisors to do so anyway for a variety of reasons: moral decisions, to mitigate reputational damage and to avoid the cost of complying with sanctions, especially since Russia “doesn’t represent a large percentage of the sales” for most of these companies. .
“Concerns about hackers and data protection … could also be a good reason,” he said.
He suspects that franchisors will negotiate deals to “share the pain,” either by agreeing to temporarily halt operations or through settlement fees to end the relationship, he said.
He said he negotiated a contract, out of hundreds, in which a hotel owner in Russia wanted the contractual right to walk away if an international incident harmed his broader business interests.
“God, we had to fight for that,” Antel said.
However, he said he now expects contractual exit options to be much more common in the future.