Ukraine’s head of IT security of the digital infrastructure gave insights in cyberwarfare in online lecture at ITU
In an online lecture, held at IT University of Copenhagen on September the 28th, Victor Zhora, who is responsible for cybersecuring the Ukrainian digital infrastructure, took students and researchers behind the front lines of the cyberwar, which he describes as the “first cyber world war”.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is often illustrated with burning tanks and bombed out buildings but consequences of the less visible part of the war, the cyberwar, are often as serious as of the physical war that we are presented with in the media coverage of the war. This was one of the key messages in Deputy Chairman of the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine on Digital Development, Victor Zhora’s online presentation at the IT University of Copenhagen. Cyber war crimes and resilience
Victor Zhora described that some of the many cyber attacks in Ukraine are often deathly and targeted civilians but in his opinion the crimes of cyberwarfare are not really recognized by international conventions (The Geneva Convention, for example), which tend to require targets of attacks to be military objects. As examples of attacks target civilians, Victor Zhora mentioned attacks on energy supplies of hospitals.
“We need to get better in identifying the people behind these attacks and I think we need to discuss whether some of the attacks actually constitute war crimes. Unfortunately, international laws are insufficient in terms of holding these people accountable” Victor Zhora said.
In his presentation, Victor Zhora, also gave insights into the thousands of Russian attacks that hit Ukrainian critical infrastructures each year. In 2022, Ukraine’ governmental Computer Emergencies Response Team, CERT-UA, manually processed 2194 incidents, a number that only reflects the tip of the iceberg and not the total number of cyberattacks in Ukraine. According to a CERT-UA report on Russia’s cyber tactics, however, the Ukraine’s resilience to the attacks are growing.
“This summer we have seen a decrease in the number of attacks. Perhaps, they (the Russians) went on holiday, I don’t know, but we expect an increase on the energy sector in the next months when it gets darker and colder,” he said. The importance of research
After the lecture, the organizer of the lecture, professor and head of Center for Information Security and Trust (CISAT), Carsten Schürmann, felt honored and grateful that Victor Zhora prioritized his time in favor for the IT University. He thinks that it is not only Ukraine that falls victim to aggression in cyberspace, and finds it important that nation states in the western world, find ways to stay resilient and invest into cybersecurity research to stay ahead of the adversary.
“I noted that Victor Zhora called the war the first cyber world war. The Russian aggression is mostly physical in Ukraine but we should not forget that cyberspace is also part of the battlefield affecting all nations. Also, in Denmark, we are regularly experiencing cyberattacks on our infrastructure. Throughout the last five years, a lot has happened in Denmark to strengthen Danish cyber defense, but I think we could still do more. I would like to see, for example, the IT security research strengthened,” Carsten Schürmann said.