Russia will target other countries for web attacks, Ukraine cyber defence chief warns

Viktor Zhora tells Dublin conference cyberattacks now combining with conventional combat

Ukraine has become the testing ground for a drastic new form of hybrid warfare that combines intense cyberattacks with more conventional combat, according to Viktor Zhora, who oversees Ukraine’s cyber defences and protections on critical information infrastructure.

“While cyberattacks have been often considered a weapon of the future until recently, experience of the ongoing war has clearly shown to the whole world that the future has come,” Mr Zhora said. “We can say for sure that cyberspace has become a real warfare domain. There are no boundaries that can stop cyber attackers.”

Speaking on Thursday by video link to Irisscon, Ireland’s annual cybersecurity conference, Mr Zhora said that even though cyberattacks “may not cause such an evident destructive impact as the missile strikes, the effects should not be underestimated” because they are complex and widespread and threaten essential services, from power and water supplies to medical care and communications.

Russian cyberattacks began a month and a half before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and have since resulted in the “world’s worst and first cyberwar”, with Ukraine displacing the United States as the most targeted nation globally.


In 2022 Ukraine’s national incident response team dealt with 2,194 cyber incidents, followed by another 2,054 attacks in the first 10 months of this year. “The vast majority of them, over three-quarters of cyberattacks, target civilian information infrastructure and that’s Russia acting as a terrorist state in cyberspace,” he said.

January 2022 was the most intense attack month and those attacks were aimed at destruction of information systems and destruction of essential services, he said. The cyberattacks primarily targeted government departments and other public authorities, critical infrastructure facilities, particularly the energy and financial sectors, IT and telecom companies as well as the media.

Ukraine hurried to develop cyber defence capabilities after a Russian cyberattack attempted to disrupt Ukrainian elections in 2014, with further cyberattacks following in 2015 and 2016. Mr Zhora said numerous partners have supplied training and equipment, including various forms of aid from international government agencies and technology companies.

He warned that other countries, and the technology companies that provide software, equipment and services to them, are going to become targets. “It’s just a matter of time before other authoritarian regimes start their cyber wars against the West,” he said.

“It’s crucial now for everyone to realise the degree of danger posed by the combined use of conventional and cyber warfare. Democracies should immediately adapt their military doctrines to address emerging cyberspace-based threats. Cyberattacks should be treated in the same manner as conventional military aggression and should result in a similar response.”

Karlin Lillington

Karlin Lillington

Karlin Lillington, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about technology