April 21, 2017

The case for U.S.-Ukrainian cybersecurity collaboration

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It is often forgotten that Ukraine is currently the scene of the largest land battle in Europe where the battle for democracy is unfolding before eyes. Amid Russian cyberattacks and militant aggression in eastern Ukraine, the fledgling democratic government in Kyiv continues to work to fulfill the promises of the Euro-Maidan and advance economic reforms.

The West must continue to support our ally Ukraine – for the sake of protecting its democratic future, and defending the principle of democracy the world over. Ignoring Vladimir Putin’s continued offensive of covert military attacks, political pressure, propaganda and cyberattacks threatens Ukraine’s sovereignty and our own American national security interests.

It’s no coincidence that cyberattacks against Ukraine increased when the Ukrainian people self-organized to demand an open and democratic society in 2014. Days before Ukraine’s 2014 presidential election, hackers infiltrated Ukraine’s Central Election Commission with a series of attacks that disabled the website in an attempt to sow distrust in the outcome of the election of President Petro Poroshenko.

In December 2015, hackers remotely shut down power at three regional electricity distribution companies, creating a power outage affecting over 200,000 customers for one to six hours. Last year, specialists discovered a malware infected computer at an airport in Ukraine: evidence of a suspected cyberattack.

In advocating for a Ukraine National Cyber Security System, President Poroshenko has declared cybersecurity to be a full-scale battlefield for state independence.

The U.S. Congress has demonstrated strong support for Ukraine by appropriating funding for defensive weapons, humanitarian assistance and economic assistance. However, more can and should be done to address Ukraine’s cybersecurity. That is why I’ve introduced the Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, H.R. 1997, to encourage cooperation between the United States and our ally Ukraine on matters of cybersecurity, and require a report from the State Department on best practices to protect against future cyberattacks, to the benefit of both nations.

Cybersecurity is the national security challenge of our time. Cyber warfare is cheap to carry out and easy for adversaries to hide behind, making it particularly damaging, difficult to detect and impossible for the victim to quickly respond. Yet, there is reason for optimism. At a Regional Cybersecurity Summit in Bucharest to discuss the prospects of cyber cooperation, former Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (of the Obama administration) called it “a perfect example of a sector in which we can work together to increase national and economic security, create jobs and provide mutual prosperity for both our economies.” He concluded, “Together I am confident that we can provide leadership to enhance cybersecurity capabilities across Central and Southeast Europe.”

Both the United States and Ukraine have clear interests in strengthening our cyber defenses. Moreover, our cooperation toward this goal would send a strong, important signal of Western support for Ukraine at a time when it is literally fighting to protect its democratic identity. We must stand strong with the people of Ukraine and our NATO allies, and come together in furtherance of our cybersecurity defenses.

Rep. Brendan F. Boyle, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District.

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