UK reveals millions pumped into bolstering Ukraine’s cyber defences

The UK has revealed it is funnelling millions of pounds into bolstering Ukraine’s cyber defences, guarding the country’s critical infrastructure and public services against malicious attacks.

An initial £6.35 million package was mobilised in response to a rising “tempo” of Russian cyber activity in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February, but has been kept quiet until now for security reasons, the Government said.

It came as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, published its annual review, finding that the cyber security threat to the UK has “evolved significantly” over the past year – with 18 ransomware incidents requiring a nationally co-ordinated response.

These included attacks on an NHS supplier and a water utility company, it said.

So far, the Ukraine scheme has provided incident response support, helped harden critical infrastructure against future attacks, and delivered frontline cyber security systems – including firewalls and forensic capabilities – to offer an extra layer of protection and understanding.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned that Russia’s assault on Ukraine is “not limited to its horrific land invasion”, as Moscow has “persistently attempted to invade Ukraine’s cyberspace, threatening critical information, services and infrastructure”.

The Government claimed Russian actors have a “long history of hostile and destabilising activity” against Ukraine, with alleged past targets including the country’s electricity grid, finance and energy sectors, Kyiv’s metro and Odessa’s airport.

The NCSC has previously said it has “high confidence” that Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency was “almost certainly” behind some of these attacks, including the disruption to the transport system.

Moscow has denied involvement in cyber strikes on Ukraine in the past.

“The UK’s support to Ukraine is not limited to military aid – we are drawing on Britain’s world-leading expertise to support Ukraine’s cyber defences,” Mr Cleverly said.

“Together, we will ensure that the Kremlin is defeated in every sphere: on land, in the air and in cyber space.”

NCSC chief executive Lindy Cameron said: “The NCSC is proud to have played a part in supporting Ukraine’s cyber defenders.

“They have mounted an impressive defence against Russian aggression in cyberspace, just as they have done on the physical battlefield.

“The threat remains real and the UK’s support package is undoubtedly bolstering Ukraine’s defences further.”

On Tuesday, the Defence Secretary said momentum on the ground remained with Ukraine, with Crimea expected to come within range of Ukrainian artillery by the end of November.

Ben Wallace told a committee of peers: “The direction of travel is that I think it is likely that by the end of this month, the northern part of Kherson will be depleted of Russians or the Russians will have left that part, which brings into range parts of Crimea from long-range artillery that the Ukraine held or the HIMARS-type (multiple rocket launcher) systems.”

Kherson, in southern Ukraine, is currently under Russian occupation and Russian-installed local authorities have sought to evacuate civilians from the area in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive.

Mr Wallace added that Russian forces continued to suffer from a lack of equipment and poor morale, and said he expected fighting to continue through the winter.