Ukraine—Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Activity

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2020-2025

Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Country: Ukraine

Solutions: Economic Growth Digital Acceleration

Ukraine is engaged in an ongoing struggle against cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure. The Russian government is carrying out a widespread hybrid war on Ukraine in which cyberattacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure are core to the Russian strategy. Ukraine’s energy sectors—oil and gas, nuclear, electricity, and hydroelectric systems—are a particularly high-value target.

These attacks on critical infrastructure pose complex and novel challenges that require Ukraine to respond rapidly, deploy effective countermeasures, and build new defenses against future attacks by a range of potential internal and external malicious actors. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Activity works to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and to transform Ukraine from a compromised, reactive cybersecurity actor to a proactive cybersecurity leader.

The Activity improves Ukraine’s cybersecurity posture in critical infrastructure and serves more than 20 beneficiaries, including the Ministry of Digital Transformation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, the State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection, and higher educational institutions across Ukraine. Increasing organizational and technical capacity in key institutions and ensuring that the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is prepared to take on these challenges are the Activity’s priorities, as well as building the foundation for improved preparedness based on an effective legal regulatory framework, effective communication between stakeholders, and engagement with the private sector.

The team has continued planned activities throughout the period since Russia’s full-scale invasion, while maintaining active dialogue with a wide range of Ukrainian stakeholders to identify and prioritize evolving requirements in cybersecurity capacity building, based on the war’s impact on the beneficiary operating environment. Despite the challenges of wartime conditions, Ukraine continues to make progress in building cybersecurity resilience, including expanding the breadth and depth of its international network and partnerships. USAID’s contribution to these efforts has been instrumental to their success, and the Activity plays a key role in responding to the dynamic cybersecurity requirements of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure community.

Sample Activities

  • In collaboration with the government, review existing or draft cybersecurity legislation, policies, and strategies, and develop an approach for the legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks to create a modern, robust legislative framework responsive to the country’s current and future needs.
  • Improve national preparedness through assessments of security in selected critical infrastructure operators leading to the development of a Cyber Maturity Model.
  • Develop custom scenarios and deliver large-scale tabletop exercises to test and reinforce developed response procedures to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure.
  • Develop and support new degree programs in cybersecurity at more than 50 higher education institutions.
  • Facilitate operational partnership, technical training, threat data sharing, and expertise exchanges between leading Ukrainian government agencies and U.S. government agencies responsible for cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.
  • Equip special basement bomb shelter premises of government bodies with secure video communication and remote work infrastructure.
  • Provide forward-deployable fiber repair and maintenance labs to perform repairs in the field and sustain country internet connectivity.
  • Build the capacity of security operations center analysts, system designers, risk managers, and auditors on topics that are relevant to their responsibilities.
  • Raise awareness within government entities, among the private sector, and among the Ukrainian population at large about cybersecurity threats and means of protection.

Select Results

  • Conducted a national competition that drew 771 participants from 256 teams to compete using and refining skills in malware analysis, digital forensics, web security, applied cryptography, steganography, mobile security, professional programming, and coding.
  • Developed 14 new cybersecurity professional standards to enhance the Ukrainian National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, a set of professional standards that guide the development of educational and training curricula.
  • Supported the development and adoption of a new National Cybersecurity Strategy, formalized in a Presidential Decree in August 2021.
  • Developed the CyberTracker platform, a tool for outlining the cybersecurity sector’s development and visualizing and monitoring the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy.
  • Supported the draft of legal acts underpinning Ukraine’s National Plan for the Protection and Security and Stability of Critical Infrastructure.
  • Equipped government mobile rapid response technical teams with field-deployable technical equipment and software for sensor routing, general supervisory control and data acquisition security, and networking, as well as custom incident response kits.
  • Launched a Small and Medium Business Accelerator called CyberAccelerator UA, which provided more than 100 hours of training to 10 cybersecurity companies.
  • Established a Cybersecurity Higher Education Program involving 56 universities representing 15 oblasts across the country.
  • Donated 4,700 IT components and 4,000 software licenses to 25 higher education institutions to adapt their facilities for the academic year, ensuring cybersecurity students can continue to study.
  • Activated the RangeForce cybersecurity experiential learning platform to provide hands-on training to up to 10,000 top students in cybersecurity concentrations.
  • Provided professional training to critical infrastructure operators and government employees for certification in globally recognized credentials, including Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Network Defender, and Certified Ethical Hacker.
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