Russia vs Ukraine Concept

Episode 236: Cyberwar Takes A Back Seat In Ukraine (For Now)

Ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Western experts almost unanimously predicted a cyberwar would precede crippling kinetic attacks. Two weeks in, we have yet to see them. But that doesn’t mean that cyber is off the table. In this podcast, we sit down with Christian Sorensen, the former lead of the international cyber warfare team at US Cyber Command and CEO of cybersecurity firm, SightGain, to talk about what we’ve learned so far from Russia’s war in Ukraine, and what may be coming next.

Even before Russian bombs and missiles started dropping in Kiev and other cities on February 24, Ukraine’s government was working to beat back attacks on critical government computer systems and networks. In the days leading up to the beginning of Russia’s kinetic attack on Ukraine, a series of denial of service attacks targeted Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and other government agencies. 

Christian Sorenson is the CEO of SightGain.
Christian Sorensen is the CEO of SightGain.

Then, on the eve of the invasion, a pair of new “wiper” programs were spotted infecting  and disabling computer systems within Ukraine. 

Cyberwar on simmer in Ukraine…for now

Still, more than two weeks after the beginning of hostilities, many cyber security experts say that the cyber-component of Russia’s war on Ukraine has not played out as expected and that Vladimir Putin has still not unleashed his most ferocious cyber offensive weapons. Twenty first century cyber attacks, relatively, have taken a back seat to the 20th century’s planes, bombs and bullets. 

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Why is that, and what may be coming as the conflict in Ukraine drags on? To answer those questions we invited Christian Sorensen, former lead of the international cyber warfare team at USCYBERCOM and CEO of cybersecurity firm, SightGain,in to the studio to talk about the conflict, what may be coming next and what we’re learning about Russia’s cyber offensive capabilities. 

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In this conversation, Christian said that Russia may be holding back its cyber arsenal because such attacks would provide relatively little advantage to its army and expose its cutting edge capabilities. With soldiers and tanks on the ground and surrounding major Ukrainian cities, he said, Russia’s objective is clear.

Still, cyber attacks may come to play a more important role down the line – including against Ukraine’s Western allies, he said.

Check out our full conversation above, or use the button below to download the MP3.