The EU Mobilises Its Cyber Rapid Response Team To Deal With Russian Attacks

The Ukrainian conflict is escalating and the tensions between the US, EU, UK and Russia have increased.

Russian troops have entered Ukraine, but it's not yet clear if that military incursion will be reinforced by more  cyber incursions targeting Ukraine and its allies. Fresh cyber attacks are thought to be imminent, as Russia's parallel army of cyber attackers stand ready to create havoc in networks and systems across the West.

Now, the European Union is activating its new cyber security team to help Ukraine fight off attacks from Russia.

The EU’s Cyber Rapid Response Team (CRRT) includes around 10 national cybersecurity officials of six European countries, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania, who can provide assistance to countries under cyber attack. The team falls under the EU's defense cooperation program PESCO  and this will be its first known deployment.

CRRT will allow the member states to help each other to ensure a higher level of cyber resilience and collectively respond to cyber incidents. CRRTs could be used to assist other member states, EU Institutions, CSDP operations as well as partners.  CRRTs will be equipped with a commonly developed deployable cyber toolkits designed to detect, recognise and mitigate cyber threats. Teams would be able to assist with training, vulnerability assessments and other requested support. The six “participating member states made a decision to activate the team,” said Margiris Abukevičius, vice minister at the Ministry of National Defence in Lithuania.

The move comes as Ukrainian cyber security services are on the receiving end of cyber threats and probing attacks as the conflict with Russia increases in scale.

Abukevičius said European officials will work out the details with Ukraine on how many and which experts it will devote to the operation. Sending the cyber team into Ukraine “is an option we’re considering,” Abukevičius said, adding it will depend on the type of support Ukraine requests.

A US cyber warfare officer has confirmed the increase and heightened threat of Russian cyber attacks against US companies, especially those dealing with the Pentagon or Ukrainian government entities, in the first steps to war between Ukraine and Russia. "Russia has targeted clear defense contractors, private companies that support the US military," the unnamed US cyber warfare officer told reporters. "So this is a normal tactic and we would expect this to be no different in the pre-hostilities for Ukraine. Specifically, any US contractors who are supporting Ukraine's government and military."

The Ukrainian government on February 18 asked for the EU’s support of cyber military officials, in a letter to EU leaders seen by POLITICO.

Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote to EU leaders that it would "welcome deployment to Kyiv" of the team of experts to evaluate "vulnerabilities of our key computer networks and systems." Kuleba also requested "additional technical equipment and software for strengthening the cybersecurity infrastructure" from the EU. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell recently told reporters that the EU “will send a mission of experts to help Ukraine to face cyber-attacks,” after meeting Kuleba at a meeting of European foreign affairs ministers in Brussels.

Kyiv's call for cyber reinforcements followed two major attacks on Ukrainian government networks in recent weeks.  Hackers have already posted messages on government websites and spread malware to wipe out data. Government websites were also taken down by an avalanche of traffic targeted at them.

The country suffered attacks on its elections in 2014 and on its energy grids in 2015 and 2016. The country was also the epicenter of a global malware outbreak known as "NotPetya" that quickly spread across the world, crippling multinationals like the Danish shipping giant Maersk, logistics giant FedEx and numerous others.

Both the European Union and NATO have has invested in projects schemes supporting Ukraine’s cyber security and digital infrastructure for several years. The country is seen as a front line in global cyber conflict and a testbed for intelligence services to deploy offensive cyber and espionage tools.

In Britain the Home Secretary and the national spy agency GCHQ have urged private companies and public services to take "pre-emptive measures" to defend themselves against an attack.

PESCO Europa:   European Defence Agency:     Politico:     Newsweek:   Telegraph:    Beckers Health IT:     

BankInfoSecurity:

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