Ukraine struggling to tackle vulnerabilities against Russian cyberattacks - media

14:40, 08 March 2018
Economy
535
REUTERS

In direct response to the Russian cyberthreat in recent years, Ukrainian institutions have developed special cybersecurity units to tackle vulnerabilities: the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has an in-house team; the Interior Ministry and National Police created the Cyberpolice force led by Demedyuk; there is a Center for Cyberprotection within the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection; and the Defense Ministry has been slower to react but is currently discussing the creation of cyberunits for military purposes and cyberdefense, according to Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Dmytro Shymkiv.

Coordinating all of Ukraine's cybersecurity initiatives is the National Security and Defense Council, which opened a new cyber-focused center for doing so last month, according to RFE/RL.

Some state companies have also taken the initiative. For instance, Ukrainian power distributor Ukrenergo, one of the main targets of cyberattacks in the past two years, said last month that it was investing up to $20 million in a new cyberdefense system.

Read alsoUkraine "playground" for Russian cyberattacks - mediaBut many Ukrainian institutions and companies -- including those who help lead cybersecurity efforts or guard highly sensitive information -- fail to communicate or coordinate with one another, and remain vulnerable to cyberattacks and information leaks, according to pro-government hackers who spoke to RFE/RL.

One of them, "Sean Townsend," the pseudonymous spokesman and one of the founding members of the self-described hacktivist group Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, said that a recent flash mob organized by him and a dozen or so Ukrainian hacktivist colleagues that they promoted on social media proved cyberdefenses here remain weak.

Townsend said more than 200 cases of vulnerabilities were found among Ukraine's state institutions and companies. But not all of them have been addressed.

He placed much of the blame for the inconsistent responses to cyberthreats on poor communication between the various cybersecurity units in government institutions plus a "policies for the sake of policies" approach by the government. "Many of our leaders think we need to simply write down new rules, enforce them, and control how people are executing them, and then all will be well," he said.

Read alsoNew cyber attack on Ukrainian energy companies could be in the works – U.S. mediaIn turn, Dmytro Shymkiv says his "dream" is to build a U.S.-led, nongovernmental cybersecurity center in Kyiv that would act as a computer emergency-response team for the public while also focusing on training.

Shymkiv said he had discussed the idea with Washington officials who found the idea "interesting" but have indicated there are still some hang-ups preventing them from acting on the idea. "Everybody's concerned [with] how many Russian spies we have in the government," Shymkiv said. "That's why I'm saying, 'Let's build this from scratch...on the principles and approaches defined by the U.S.'"

Plus, he added, with Ukraine a regular target of Russian hackers, there is a lot the United States could learn from its experience and apply at home.

Read alsoBill aimed to enhance U.S.-Ukraine cybersecurity cooperation introduced in U.S. SenateMeanwhile, Ukraine must remain vigilant, which Shymkiv said meant continually educating staff.

In recent months, Shymkiv said, he had noticed stealthier and more sophisticated phishing attempts aimed at the presidential administration by hackers he believes are working in Russia. These efforts to extract sensitive information are disguised as messages from internal systems administrators and appear carefully crafted to appeal to specific employees, himself included.

"They are extremely well done," Shymkiv said. "[The hackers] are hacking our brains. They target people's trust."

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