UK declassifies Ukraine cyber program
The UK government revealed on Tuesday that its cybersecurity experts started secretly helping Ukraine defend against alleged Russian hacker attacks almost immediately after Moscow launched its military operation in late February.
To protect Ukraine, Britain initially mobilized a previously undisclosed support package to the tune of £6.35 million ($7.32 million) in a bid to shield Kiev’s critical national infrastructure from cyberattacks, according to UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. The operations were carried out by the UK’s Ukraine Cyber Programme.
According to the Times, the program, which is being run by the Foreign Office with help from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), saw British specialists scramble to protect Ukraine “within 35 minutes of Russian troops crossing the border.”
The specialists “provided incident response support” to Ukrainian state entities, while protecting them against “destructive cyberattacks” and preventing malicious actors from acquiring crucial information, the government said. They also boosted the resilience of Ukraine’s digital infrastructure and supplied Kiev with “frontline cyber security hardware and software."
According to the British government, the program had not been made public until now to protect its “operational security.”
In an interview to Sky News, Leo Docherty, a junior Foreign Office minister, stressed that without British help, the havoc wreaked by alleged Russian hackers would have been “very significant,” adding the UK has also bolstered its own cyber defenses due to what he called “a very significant cyber threat” from Moscow.
Commenting on the effort, Cleverly noted that the UK’s support for Ukraine “is not limited to military aid,” vowing that “we will ensure that the Kremlin is defeated in every sphere: on land, in the air and in cyber space.”
The British government claims that Russia significantly ramped-up its offensive cyber activities against Ukraine after full-scale hostilities broke out between the two countries in late February. Moscow has repeatedly dismissed allegations that it has carried out cyberattacks.
In April, Ukrainian officials admitted that Kiev had itself mounted hundreds of such attacks against Russian and Belarusian enterprises, banks and institutions.