How Ukraine Managed to Limit the Scale of Russian Cyberattacks (2/2)

And the shield takes precedence over the sword when it comes to cyber warfare in Ukraine. This is the surprising but very real observation of General Aymeric Bonnemaison, Commander of Cyber ​​Defense. However, their feedback from this conflict in the cyber arena shows that Ukraine has managed to counteract the effects of Russian cyberattacks. Under the supervision of Western powers, preparations began in 2014 to deal with a possible Russian-led cyberwar, and then massive American help was decisive in containing Russian cyberattacks, in particular the 350 carried out during the first two months of the conflict. . These are the two keys to Ukraine’s success on the cyber battlefield, but General Aymeric Bonnemaison calls “with a lot of prudence and a lot of humility” in this domain.

western standards

Starting in 2014, Ukraine decided to invest massively in the cyber domain and undertaken “Important work to reform cyberspace in depth, in particular working on the strategic pillar”explains the commander of cyber defense. In early 2016, the Ukrainian government revealed its first cyber defense strategy. In terms of capabilities, Parliament has both allocated a budget for cyber defense and protection of electoral systems.

An agency with national jurisdiction, the National Cybersecurity Center, comparable toANSI (National Information Systems Security Agency), was raised. Is it over there depends on coperational incident response capabilities shared by all countries with experience in cyber defense. At the normative level, the Ukrainian government enacted, in the summer of 2017, a law relating to cyber security that expands the powers of investigation and interception of Ukrainian services and created a cyber police.

“Ukraine benefited from early Western support in cyberspace. She worked on her vulnerabilities with western cyberpowers, at the forefront of which the United Statessays General Bonnemaison. This support has proven to be decisive for Ukraine’s resilience in the areas of telecoms and digital”. This support was based on dialogue and exchanges increased as well asand in bringing Ukrainian standards and procedures closer to the western models. In this area, Ukraine has opened a cyber data exchange platform NATO and European Union (EU) standards. Made it possible to quickly share the signs of attack and the first technical tools to protect against them.

Massive help from western countries

Several states, often bordering, offered solutions to Ukraine strengthening your resiliency: redundant data hosting and digital services in data centers located in particular in Poland and the countryLow. “The United States invested directly and massively, through state support and private actors such as Microsoft and Google. US private digital companies have been providing Ukraine with digital cybersecurity solutions continuously and increasingly as tensions with Russia evolve.”notes the cyber defense commander. The GAFAMs took “of considerable importance” in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and made a significant contribution to the protection of Ukraine,

The direct participation of the StatesUnited, who feared that an invasion would be accompanied by a wave of cyber attacksclearly has intensified at the end of 2021. L‘USCYBERCOM then deploys in Ukraine a team of experts military, tasked with discovering whether the Russian attackers had already infiltrated the Ukrainian systems. “The arrival of the Americans in charge of detecting possible pre-positioned software was crucial in the weeks leading up to the conflict. In two weeks, their mission became one of the largest US Cyber ​​Command deployments, deploying more than forty US military personnel.”he explains.

When the Russia has stepped up cyberspace operations in January to test systems Ukrainians in an unprecedented way, the American team was able to measure the extent of the cyberattack. “These teams embarked on an advanced hunting mission, which consists of searching the partners’ computer networks for pre-positioning signals”says cyber defense chief. At the same time, he notes, Ukraine’s IT Army, IT Army had “rather modest efficiency”. Why ? “It made it possible to urgently structure strong viral aggression capabilities against the Russians, but the attacks carried out were very disorderly and of a relatively low technical level”he analyzes.

Furthermore, what role did the United States play in the Ukrainian offensive operations carried out on Russian territory? “No doubt there are”believes the cybernetic defense commander, who remains cautious, however, explaining that it was “not very knowledgeable on this subject”. However, General Aymeric Bonnemaison indicates that certain operations were led by the United States and taken over, in particular by General Paul M. Nakasone, Commanding United States Internet Command and the senior commander of Unified Combat Command.

Greater solidarity among western countries

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cyber defense commander notes that exchanges between partners have become “simpler”. “Cyber ​​has a slightly regal side, mainly for aspects related to offense and influence, but that has less reason to be when it comes to defense”, he deciphers. Today, information sharing is very fast when an allied country is attacked, within the framework of NATO or Europe. For example, the Americans published technical data on Russian attacks on Ukraine. “When you publish the type of virus and the corresponding data, it allows it to be filtered and found”says General Bonnemaison.

“Until now, nations tended to keep this information with them, including to reuse it later, but today the dynamic is more to publish as quickly as possible to prevent other countries from being contaminated. Thus, just as NATO woke up, Putin’s attack finally accelerated data sharing, which we will work to continue in the coming years”, he analyzes.

As always, the cyber defense commander remains cautious. In particular when he evokes the dormant invasions that might have been prepositioned in France or among her allies. “I would like to say there is no risk, but we don’t know he explains. When I don’t detect an attack, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one, just that I haven’t seen one. “. Only certainty, the Russians are busy in Ukraine. And then some of their “tools” were detected during the attacks they tried on this country and were exposed. This gives a little readability for Western allies.

Kyiv win in information conflict?

“If, in the western world, everyone attributes to Volodymyr Zelensky the victory in the information war, this is not always the case in the rest of the world, where the western reading of the conflict is not unanimous”rightly notes the commander of cyber defense. With the exception of Western countries, the rest of the world has been very reserved, even cautious in this conflict. The Ukrainian president who adoptedbeen an opening strategy, communicated massively for its population and especially for the West.

Volodymyr Zelensky made extensive use of his image on social media and released with the help of the Ukrainian diaspora in the West “a beautiful narrative, systematically adapted to its target “ that he he has Household for the governmentments strangers, at the the EU, for the StatesUnited Where at the your compatriots, on the floor of a combatant president speaking in a soldier’s uniform. As a result, European public opinion quickly took up Ukraine’s cause. retransmission spontaneously what Communication.

The Ukrainian politicians turned the official information war into war of emotions, through social networks, perfectly using Twitter, Instagram and TikTok firstr place »deciphers General Aymeric Bonnemaison.