At a press briefing of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces, the head of the Cyber Defense Command analyzed the use of cyber in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, identifying three main lessons on the role of this "stealthy and discreet weapon, with a lightning effect".
"The cyber weapon had a particularly important role before the conflict"
General Bonnemaison, head of the Cyber Defense Command (COMCYBER), recalled that operations in cyberspace started long before Russia's outbreak of war on February 24, 2022. In Ukraine, high-level attacks against critical infrastructure - power stations, telecommunication centers, enterprises... began as early as 2014. At the same time, Ukraine has operated "a real revolution by going upmarket in its defensive computer fight." This strengthening of its cyber defense capabilities, developed under the supervision of Western powers, is characterized by the increase of dedicated budgets, the development of an appropriate strategy and the creation of an agency with national competence comparable to Anssi (National Agency for Information Systems Security).
"Defense can take the lead on the offensive"
The cyber surge, which began in 2014, has allowed Ukraine to show unprecedented resilience in the face of Russian cyberattacks. The latter have "been much less impactful and effective than expected, points out General Bonnemaison, particularly because of the massive support of the United States and Gafam*. If experts agreed that the offensive computer fight could bring a country to its knees, this was not the case in Ukraine, as the latter managed to get the better of the Russian offensive. A " scoop and a source of hope for all cyber commanders today ", says the COMCYBER : " This advantage by the defensive is a real paradigm shift (...) The Ukrainian demonstration is: 'I manage to contain, I manage to reorganize, I manage to use other systems to rebound, all with significant creativity and innovation.'
" Scattered, complex and diverse actors "
"Hacktivists", intelligence services, cybercriminals, Gafam... : there is great confusion in cyberspace between the actors, their actions and their intentions. " My generation, which has experienced asymmetric warfare, knows that the distinction between civilians and military is not obvious. But it is even more complex in cyberspace ", explains the COMCYBER. Cybercriminal groups have thus carried out attacks on behalf of certain intelligence services. The growing porosity between these two worlds complicates the attribution of computer attacks. On the Ukrainian side, the "hacktivists" have been strongly mobilized but have been disorganized. Apart from a form of harassment, their action has not been very effective, according to General Bonnemaison. The Gafam, meanwhile, have taken a considerable importance, contributing largely to the protection of Ukraine.
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