My Frustrating Thursday: Could It Have Been Caused by Russian Cyberattacks Against the West?

Image by u_lxme1rwy from Pixabay 

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Extremely frustrating, quite frankly.

Let me explain.

I usually start writing posts for A Certain Point of View, Too on Microsoft Office’s Word either late in the morning or early in the afternoon. Okay, there have been times when I’ve written my post-of-the-day early in the morning (even before sunrise on a couple of occasions). But that was when I was leading a happier life here in Lithia and not suffering from depression or anxiety issues and was more able to focus on creative endeavors.

Nowadays, my “start-time” on these posts is usually between 10:30 AM and noon [1]. I’m not the fastest of typists, and I usually try to revise my posts before I head to WordPress (or Blogger), so the process of writing a blog post ranges from two hours for a “regular” article or essay, to three or four hours for a review. So even when I used to start blog posts with the “weather report” intros, quite often several hours passed between my start time and the moment I hit the “Publish Post” button.

On a good day, this means I’m usually done with my blogging by 2 or 3 PM if I start writing before noon and 3 or 4 PM if I start after noon. Of course, there are variables to consider, such as the complexity of the topic, my mood and energy levels, interruptions, rest breaks, bathroom breaks, or – occasionally – lunch breaks.

If I choose to write a review, that takes longer. I often have to go to (if it’s a movie review) to look for information about when a film or TV show was originally released or if So-and-So was in other movies or TV shows. If I’m doing a music review, such as yesterday’s Music Album (Mixed Media) Review: ‘John Williams/Berliner Philharmoniker: The Berlin Concert’, I must find music videos on YouTube, promotional material from record labels’ websites, painstakingly reproduce the tracklists, as well as write the actual, you know, review.

This, of course, brings me to why yesterday was a day that made me want to bang my head against my desk till I lost consciousness out of sheer frustration.

As you know, I received my Amazon order of The Berlin Concert last week, and since I watched it twice last weekend, I wanted to review at least the video portion of the four-disc set, since it’s the reason for my choice of the Limited Edition Deluxe set rather than the more affordable 2-CD or digital editions.

And, as I mentioned earlier, I prefer to use Word to create these blog posts. I can, of course, write them on WordPress itself, but it’s more time-consuming and not as easy to do as it is on Word. Google Drive also has a decent word-processing app, but it is not as good as Word, and I only use it as a last recourse in case I can’t use Microsoft Word. (In other words, I rarely need to use Google Drive’s writing app.)

Knowing that writing a review would eat up an elephant-sized chunk out of my day, I decided I’d start before 11 AM so I could stop for the day by 4 PM. I turned my computer on as soon as I woke up yesterday morning, so I had already “booted up” my system and was connected to the Internet. All I needed to do was open Word.

So, I clicked on the blue-white Word icon on my taskbar to open the app. As it usually does, a new window opened on my PC screen and the familiar start menu for Word appeared on my computer screen.

I hovered my mouse cursor to the Create New Blank Document command and clicked on it. Voila! A new document window appeared on the screen. Slower than usual, but not sluggish enough to worry about.

I then clicked on Save File to name my file and activate the Autosave function on Word.

Nothing happened.

Well, something happened. Not something I wanted to happen, but the opposite of what I wanted to happen.

Word froze.

The blue “spinny” thing that appears on a monitor when a program tries to obey a command but can’t proceed made its unwelcome appearance. The System Busy light on my PC’s monitor blinked brightly. A quiet but disturbing buzz went off in the background. My PC began to run in slow motion.

This is not good.

I was able to somehow log out of Word, even though it never created that New Document I wanted to start writing my review on. It did so with a slowness that worried me, but the app closed.

My PC was acting normally again – just a tad slower than usual, but not alarmingly sluggish. I could still go to Facebook, check my AOL mail account, look at my Twitter account, and even visit the Deutsche Grammophon site for information about The Berlin Concert.

Let’s try Word again. Maybe that glitch was just a temporary bug in the system, I thought.

So, I clicked on the Word shortcut on my Taskbar. Once again, the app opened. Reluctantly, as if it didn’t feel like working, but it opened.

I went through the process of creating a New Document, a task I do every day almost as automatically as I breathe.

And again, when I hit the Save File command, the “System Busy” indicator blinked accusingly at me and the “spinning” thingy that tells you a program is trying to comply but can’t returned.

I waited a few moments in the forlorn hope that it was just a tiny hiccup in Word and that I’d be able to name my file and save it to my Documents folder.

Nuh-uh.  Nothing doing.

I then decided that If I couldn’t use Word on my desktop, I would try opening it on my laptop, the one that updated itself to Windows 11 this past weekend.

Spoiler alert. Word opened quickly, but I still could not go beyond the Create a New Document.

This is definitely NOT good.

I moseyed over to Google Drive and tried creating a document on the word processor app, which Google calls Google Docs. It’s comparable to Word and has some of the same basic features, but it is not my favorite word-processing application. Unlike Microsoft Word yesterday, it worked, so I created a file, named it The Berlin Concert Review, then saved it to the cloud so I could turn off my laptop and return to my desktop computer. I like my Lenovo laptop, but I knew I would be working on that music review for a while, so I decided to do that at my desk. My office chair is comfier, and I prefer my desktop PC’s keyboard and mouse instead of the laptop’s smaller keyboard and touchpad.

It was around 1 PM that I started writing   Music Album (Mixed Media) Review: ‘John Williams/Berliner Philharmoniker: The Berlin Concert’, and according to the timestamp on my WordPress control panel’s Posts page, I published that at 5:40 PM.

Because my Internet connection seemed sluggish between 12 PM and 5 PM, and because my Internet-connected Samsung 4K UHD TV set was not accessing my Amazon Music app (it is playing music right now) at all, I think some of us in the United States experienced a cyberattack of some sort. More than likely it could have been a Russian cyberattack.

Russia has cyber warfare capability – there’s the infamous Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, which is run by Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU – and the Kremlin employs thousands of trolls who plant disinformation and foment division in target countries’ societies, exploiting the fractures in those societies to weaken Russia’s perceived enemies and allow autocrats like Vladimir Putin to carry out nefarious schemes. You know, like invading neighboring countries and weakening the post-World War II order that has kept the peace, however imperfectly, for 80 or so years.

Russia has paid a terrible price for its invasion of Ukraine. Its military has performed abysmally in combat even though its much-vaunted army, navy, and air force are larger than Ukraine’s. It is believed that Putin thought that his generals could do a blitzkrieg against Ukraine and that many Ukrainians would just accept the reality that their country was a Russian vassal state, if not a completely annexed part of a new Russian Empire.

Apparently, Putin got some bad advice when he produced this scheme last year. Not only has his “Special Military Operation” proved to be the opposite of a blitzkrieg, but it united most of the world – except for outliers such as Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and like-minded countries – against Russia, and turned Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (or, more usually in English, Zelensky) into a respected hero and symbol of resistance against Moscow’s aggression.  

In addition, we now know that as long as Putin is in control of the Russian kleptocracy, that country’s government cannot be trusted. Until February 2022, the West’s combination of cynicism, self-delusion, and desire to avoid poking the Russian bear in order to move along-get along with a dictatorial and increasingly hostile regime in the Kremlin prevented the U.S. and Europe from standing firm and deterring an invasion of Ukraine.

Of course, some of us have long known that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in 2014 with its annexation of the Crimean peninsula, which Putin claimed wanted to separate from Kyiv (Kiev) because Ukrainians were mistreating the ethnic Russian minorities within Ukraine’s territory. This was the same ploy used by Adolf Hitler on various occasions during the runup to the start of World War II in Europe, and Putin, knowing that many folks – especially poorly educated conservatives – don’t read history books, thought he would try that tactic again.

For the past eight years, Russia has been supporting Russian minorities in Eastern Ukraine, particularly in Luhansk and the Donbas – to secede from their country and accept protection from Russia. The Kremlin and the oligarchs who support Putin also want to make sure they have a pro-Moscow government in Kyiv, so even if Ukraine remained nominally “independent,” it would still be a Russian client state and not a member of either NATO or the European Union.

Putin hoped that Zelensky would either be killed early in the war – there are rumors that there are Chechen and other foreign mercenary hit squads hunting the Ukrainian president and his wife – or that he would be forced to surrender quickly. Neither one of Putin’s hopes has happened so far, and there are reports that at least six senior Russian officers have been killed in combat by either Ukrainian defenders or by their own troops, some of which don’t want to fight against fellow Slavs in Ukraine. 

Russia is not about to lash out militarily against NATO or the United States, but it is likely that since Western-imposed sanctions have pulled the plug on the Russian economy, Putin can and will sic his cyberwarfare goons against us. (And by us I don’t just mean the West’s military and government infrastructure, but also our civilian economy, especially the companies that left the Russian marketplace and imposed corporate sanctions on Russia without being encouraged by the government.)

I could be wrong, but I think that my issues with the Microsoft Office app (which Word is a part of) and my TV’s inability to access my Amazon Music app were not isolated “bugs in the system.” They were part of a targeted denial of service attack by Russian cyberwarfare operatives. I say this because even though Microsoft Office was not “down” for everyone everywhere, there were plenty of queries about Word on yesterday.

It could have been a mere hiccup in the system but considering that Russia is in the middle of a war and that most countries in the West are opposed to that war and giving assistance to Ukraine, I can’t imagine that sporadic “blackouts” that affect Big Tech companies and their apps are merely coincidental occurrences.

[1] All times mentioned here are, of course, in the Eastern Time Zone.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

3 thoughts on “My Frustrating Thursday: Could It Have Been Caused by Russian Cyberattacks Against the West?

    1. While it is, of course, possible that Microsoft Office might have had an outage on Thursday, my hunch is that it was affected by a Denial of Service (DoS) attack carried out by Russian cyberwarfare operatives.


      1. Cyber attacks, that’s one thing the Russian mafia excel in, best in the world, and they are intertwined with the oligarchy and Putin, and often the same people. It’s continuously on going right now.

        Liked by 1 person

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