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UK's £6m cyber support package for Ukraine revealed for first time

The government said the programme has been in place since February but remained tight-lipped to preserve its operational security

The UK government has confirmed a multi-million-pound support package aimed at bolstering Ukraine's cyber defence strategy amid mounting efforts from Russia in cyber space.

A package worth £6.35 million has been in place since February 2022 and has helped protect Ukraine's critical infrastructure and public services from robust cyber threats, the government said on Tuesday.

The details of the UK’s Ukraine Cyber Programme have previously not been made public "to protect its operational security", it added.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is not limited to its horrific land invasion," said foreign secretary James Cleverly. "It has also persistently attempted to invade Ukraine’s cyberspace, threatening critical information, services, and infrastructure."

The fund has been used by Ukraine in different ways, one of which was to provide incident response assistance to government agencies in Ukraine.

Specific examples include offering greater protection against Industroyer2 Windows malware, believed to be developed and deployed by the Russia-backed Sandworm APT group.

This was deployed earlier this year against Ukrainian industrial control systems (ICS), according to ESET, and acts as a wiper program, destroying files and oftentimes evidence of intrusion.

Additionally, forensic technologies made available by the UK's Ukraine Cyber Programme helped Ukrainian researchers track down system compromises and intrusions while also preventing hackers from accessing vulnerable networks through firewalls and protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

"The NCSC is proud to have played a part in supporting Ukraine’s cyber defenders," said Lindy Cameron, CEO at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). "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."

As well as cyber security-focused aid, the UK has also been assisting Ukraine in rebuilding its economy through technology with efforts such as a new digital trade deal which was established last month.

Support has also come from the private sector with Microsoft claiming it has provided the Ukrainian government with more than $100 million in technology support since the outbreak of the war.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine comes after a protracted war with the country. Nevertheless, since the commencement of the conflict, the UK and Five Eyes have all vowed to defend Ukraine.

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The February cyberattack targeted at Viasat’s KA-SAT network, which caused outages across central and eastern Europe shortly before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, has been officially attributed by the US, UK, and other Five Eyes nations to the Russian military intelligence service (GRU).  

The US additionally accused Russia of using wiper malware, such as WhisperGate, against Ukrainian government websites.

As matters stand, Microsoft has issued a warning on a fresh strain of ransomware known as "Prestige" that appears to target businesses in Ukraine and Poland. The tech giant has identified operational parallels between the new ransomware strain and Russian state-sponsored threat groups. 

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