In November 2019, it was already our tenth mission to Ukraine. As part of the project “Improving data protection in the Luhansk region – Skills for locals, experience for V4 countries”, we have driven almost the entire front line and conducted information and cyber security courses for local administrations, police and the general public, supported by the Visegrad Fund www.visegradfund.org.
Near the front line, you can see that the locals are keen to learn more about cyber security because they see that both the information and cyber space have turned into a weapon that is actively used by the adversary. The sense of danger is compounded by the fact that they are in an immediate vicinity of the area of injustice. The local people see that there is a conventional war, an information war and a cyber war.
It is not possible to rely solely on experts, but every citizen must know at least the basic rules of both cyber and information security. We try to contribute by training local trainers – facilitators, who spread this knowledge further.
Anyone can become a victim. Everything goes hand in hand. Disinformation, blocking accounts on social networks or on-line theft. All this is due to the interconnection of aggressive Russian politics not only with cybercrimes, but also by linking these structures to traditional and well-established criminal subculture in the post-Soviet space.
One is focused on financial profit, the other on political or military gains. There is both a global information war aimed on the masses and goal-directed attacks on specific targets and groups. For example, accounts on social networks are blocked. These are often accounts of activists and others who have, from the Kremlin’s point of view, a “negative” impact on society. Social network profiles may be also stolen or bought. The profiles obtained by this way are then used to spread misinformation. This is a great danger nowadays; because both true and false information spreads across the network as an avalanche and gaining control over an established profile is an effective weapon.
In our lessons we explain and practically show different ways of securing of devices and Internet connections. But even without special training, the average user can do a lot for their own safety. Just know and follow simple rules – update your device software on time. We also recommend that you use different and complex passwords across all services you use generate passwords randomly where feasible, etc.. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your accounts or abuse social networks.
There is, of course, the responsibility of the state, too. However, the ordinary user usually gets to know only when he becomes a victim of a crime. But the state should also respond preventively. And Ukrainian specialists have already managed to prevent or significantly reduce impact of some cyber attacks.
Not only defense, but also the investigation of cyber and information attacks has always been complicated. Attribution, i.e. forensic search for the perpetrator of cyber attacks and attributing the attack to a specific attacker, is complicated. Ukraine’s experience is very important for the EU as well as for the V4 countries, which are also a significant part of NATO’s eastern flank. With a probability bordering with certainty, we know that most of the attack in this area is committed by the ”usual suspects” – Russia.
Ukraine and the former Soviet Union are areas where cybercrime is much more widespread than in the EU. The conditions for this business are very favorable. This is confirmed by the fact that the old criminal elements, which already have the protection (krysha-roof) from law enforcement, have joined forces with IT professionals. In the West we do not often encounter this problem because IT professionals are in great demand and can earn enough money without breaking the law.
The second reason is that it is very difficult to enforce the law in Russia and its neighboring countries, especially in the area of cybercrime. In Russia, these criminal elements and groups feel quite secure. For this reason, the problem has become so widespread that Russian-speaking cybercrime has now become a global threat.
In Ukraine, we cooperate with Ukrainian experts investigating these crimes. In addition, we regularly invite our Ukrainian colleagues to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, where they cooperate with our partner organizations.
-Maidan Monitoring Information Centre, https://maidan.org.ua, Ukraine
-Ukraine-Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, www.sfpa.sk/en/, Slovakia
-Slovakia-Poland-Ukraine Research Centre, http://www.polukr.net/en/, Poland