When Russia invaded, Ukrainian soldiers not only beat its tanks. They defeated Russa’s cyber soldiers, too, two experts said on the final day of the CEPA Forum.

At the beginning of the war, Russia managed to disable Ukraine’s satellite communications. But the Ukrainians managed to restore it quickly, says Dimitri Alperovitch, chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a geopolitics think-tank in Washington, DC, and a co-founder and former chief technology officer of a cybersecurity company Crowstrike. The country’s energy networks, banks, and other vulnerable targets continued to run.

“The Ukrainians showed resilience,” Alperovitch said. “They quickly build networks when they went down, to enhance their defense and to mitigate and block” Russian cyber intrusions.

Akey to this success was keeping much data outside of the country.  When servers inside Ukraine went down, far-off replacements sprung into action.

Ukraine demonstrates the value of “dispersing and distributing services outside one’s borders,” says Merle Maigre, a Senior Cyber Security Expert at Estonia’s e-Governance Academy and a non-resident CEPA Fellow.  Effective “cyberdefense depends on a coalition of countries and companies.”

The cyberwar is turning to the battlefield, Alperovitch predicts. Until recently, “tech-free” Soviet arms dominated Ukraine’s arsenal. As Ukraine adopts Western weapons that are Internet-connected and vulnerable to cyber attacks, it runs new risks.  But Alperovitch “believes it will take many months” for the Russian military to crack Ukraine’s new connected weapons.

Bill Echikson is the Acting Director of CEPA’s Digital Innovation Initiative and editor of Bandwidth.

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