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In fact, they say Russia is using Ukraine as a cyberwar testing ground, or as Wired described it in a lengthy and detailed report on the matter last year, "a laboratory for perfecting new forms of global online combat." Yet, for a country that is such a persistent target, Ukraine remains largely "unprepared" for cyberattacks from the likes of Russian and other skilled hackers, Shymkiv conceded.
In separate interviews, Ukraine's chief of Cyberpolice and members of a prominent pro-government hacker team agreed; while acknowledging that the country has made some progress on the cybersecurity front, they suggested or said outright that its defenses are nowhere near where they should be as a regular target of cyberattacks.
With one eye glued to a screen showing Poroshenko and the other on his constantly vibrating mobile phone, which flashed updates from his IT team, Shymkiv said he feared a distributed denial-of-service (DDo S) attack by Russian hackers that could take the video feed offline.
"It's happened before," said Shymkiv, who before joining the government in 2014 was general manager of Microsoft Ukraine, referring to past DDo S attacks timed to disrupt presidential appearances.
The war is being fought not only in the literal trenches but in cyberspace, through disinformation, fake news, and of course, cyberattacks.
The Kherson regional administration, annoyed by the alliance's discovery of vulnerabilities that would easily allow ill-intentioned hackers to penetrate its system, even filed a criminal complaint against the Cyber Alliance with the Cyberpolice.But many Ukrainian institutions and companies -- including those who help lead cybersecurity efforts or guard highly sensitive information -- fail to communicate or coordinate with one another, and remain vulnerable to cyberattacks and information leaks, according to self-described "pro-Ukrainian" hackers who spoke to RFE/RL.One of them, "Sean Townsend," the pseudonymous spokesman and one of the founding members of the hacktivist group Ukrainian Cyber Alliance, said that a recent flash mob organized by him and a dozen or so Ukrainian hacktivist colleagues that they promoted on social media proved cyberdefenses here remain weak.For instance, when Townsend probed Energoatom, the state nuclear-power-plant operator, he "found vulnerabilities that would easily allow hackers to enter the [energy] system" of one of its facilities.Energoatom responded days after the Cyber Alliance published some of its findings online, which caused public concern about a "new Chornobyl." The company essentially dubbed Townsend's findings fake news and said it would be "impossible" to hack the critical energy infrastructure at its power plants.