UKRAINE and Russia are locked in the biggest cyber war the world has ever seen, British spy chiefs have revealed.
Vladimir Putin’s army of hackers unleashed a barrage of “major cyber attacks” and a disinformation blitz to sow chaos and confusion in support of their bloodbath invasion.
But the strikes “have largely failed” thanks to Ukraine’s heroic cyber defenders and “incredible support” from allies, Lindy Cameron, the boss of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said.
Together, the western keyboard warriors saved lives, “in the face of sophisticated and sustained Russian cyber aggression”.
She said: “Just as we have seen inspirational and heroic defence by Ukrainian military on the battlefield, we have seen incredibly impressive defensive cyber operations by Ukrainian cyber security practitioners.”
The unseen blitz in cyberspace is “probably the most sustained and intensive cyber campaign on record, with the Russian state launching a series of major cyber attacks in support of their illegal invasion,” she added.
A range of Russian cyber units from the military and intelligence services, “have been busy launching a huge number of attacks in support of immediate military objectives,” she said.
“Try as they might, Russian cyber attacks simply have not had the intended impact.
“This lack of Russian success could be considered unexpected.
“However, the reasons for it can be attributed to three elements: impressive Ukrainian cyber defences, incredible support from industry partners and impressive collaboration between the UK, US, EU, Nato and others.”
Speaking at the respected Chatham House think tank in London, Cameron said it was vital the west “learn the lessons” of Ukraine.
She said: “We need to invest in resilience.”
Ukraine suffered “fairly constant attacks” since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, she said.
This made Ukraine “match fit” and ready when cyber attacks ramped up in the run-up to Mad Vlad’s onslaught, on February 24.
In the days before the invasion, Moscow’s GRU military intelligence service launched a coordinated DDoS, or denial of service, attacks against government websites and banks.
These were followed by “wiper malware” assaults designed to encrypt target data and render infected devices useless.
And as the first Russian tanks stormed over the border Russia launched a cyber attack against the US satellite internet company ViaSat.
Cameron said: “The primary target was the Ukrainian military, but thousands of personal and commercial internet users were affected, including wind farms in central Europe.”
She said the attacks were not “apocalyptic in nature”.
They were designed to stop President Zelensky’s government communicating with its people, while simultaneously spreading panic and distracting the Kyiv’s cyber defenders.
Cameron said the UK had played a key role in boosting Ukraine’s cyber resilience, including with training on how to respond and identify the attackers.
She said Ukraine was proof that cyber-defence works, “even against an adversary as well prepared and resourced as the Russian Federation.”
“It’s vital that we learn the lessons that Ukraine learnt over the last decade. We need to invest in resilience – right across the UK,” she added.
“This remains an urgent challenge. Despite not being as successful as Putin would have liked, Russia remains a very sophisticated cyber power.”