Ukraine Growing Cyber Capabilities From Within
Aimed at protecting itself and other Eastern European countries, Ukraine is developing capabilities against its aggressors.
Having confronted a need to modernize and fight against aggression during the last four years, Ukraine is positioning itself for strength in the long term in its weaponry and cyberwarfare. The country is developing its domestic defense industry base, which includes cyber capabilities.
“Ukraine clearly understands what needs to be done to keep the world’s democracy safe,” said Director General Roman Romanov of the Ukrainian Defense Industry, known as UkrOboronProm. “Ukraine has gained practical experience in resistance to a new type of aggression, which the whole world has never faced before. We believe we are to share this experience with all the democratic world.”
Its defense industry includes 130 companies, 31 research and development agencies, and roughly 80,000 employees supporting five major sectors: armored vehicles, automotive and special equipment; aircraft manufacturing; shipbuilding and marine engineering; precision weapons and ammunition; and instrumentation technology. The country, displaying its wares for the first time at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., is looking to export arms to markets in countries such as Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan.
The country has even developed a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-like agency, called GARDA, the Ukrainian Government Advanced Research and Development Agency, “to find new solutions to Ukraine military and economic problems,” according to UkrOboronProm. In addition to government-funded research, the country will also turn to private development by corporations.
At the helm of its force building, however, is the country’s long-term strategy to improve its cyber capabilities. The first effort is to create a cyber army, known as the Cyber Guard. UkrOboronProm joined with private industry to protect itself and state companies from cyberthreats. The project is to educate 100,000 students in computer programming at the nation’s universities, including the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, the National Technical University of Ukraine.
Ukrinmash (UIM), a state company that specializes in the export and import of military special-purpose products and services and emerging technologies, is spearheading the Cyber Guard effort to “create a unified center for cybersecurity,” explained UIM CEO Sergii Sliusarenko. The Cyber Guard would focus on developing both offensive and defensive cyber knowledge. He emphasized that the education of so many students in information technology (IT) gives the country the “huge potential to start innovation.”
Also, Turkish company Havelsan and information security specialists from NATO, among others, are helping to advise the UkrOboronProm’s cybersecurity efforts.
The Cyber Guard hosted a hackathon forum and contest in the city of Kharkiv on September 23—called HackIT 2017. During the event, programming specialists helped identify weaknesses and drawbacks in systems, then helped rectify any vulnerabilities, Sliusarenko said. The winners of the contest were then offered cybersecurity positions within the Cyber Guard.
The main thrust of the Cyber Guard will be to protect the country’s manufacturing base, including its military vehicle, aircraft, naval, precise weapons and instrumentation industries. A recent cyber attack, which also targeted the U.S., focused on UkrOboronProm’s factories. “Our core idea is to protect our enterprises,” noted Sliusarenko. After that, the country hopes to export its developed cybersecurity services.
State companies also are working to give 8,100 students on-the-job training at manufacturing and information technology companies across the country, which is leading to 598 students securing full-time employment in state enterprises, Sliusarenko reported.