Efforts to enhance U.S.-Ukraine collaboration in response to Russia’s cyberattacks on both countries took an important step forward with passage this week of the Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act of 2017 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 1997, was introduced by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), along with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)—both of whom are members of the House Ukraine Caucus.  The bipartisan bill encourages greater cybersecurity cooperation between the United States and Ukraine and requires the U.S. Department of State to report back to Congress on concrete measures taken.

Congressman Boyle released the following statement regarding passage of the bill: “Today, the House took a strong step forward in the ongoing fight to counter Russia’s intensifying cyber-aggression by passing my legislation. Over the last few years, Russia has been using Ukraine as a field test for cyber attacks that endanger the national security of our great ally Ukraine, its regional neighbors, and the United States. H.R. 1997 sends a strong signal to Russia and all those who threaten the cybersecurity of America and its allies that we are ready and able to protect ourselves against this escalating threat. Tonight, the House made important progress to protect the American people and reaffirm that the U.S. stands strong with its NATO allies in this fight. I implore the Senate to pass this legislation quickly. Time is of the essence, with American and Ukrainian elections each right around the corner.”

Besides carrying out cyberattacks on the election process in both Ukraine and the United States, Russia has also used cyber platforms to conduct its hybrid warfare against Ukraine in the spheres of Ukrainian military operations, communications, banking and finance, the energy grid and other infrastructure.

The Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act calls on the United States government to: provide Ukraine with support in increasing advanced security protections on government computers, particularly systems defending critical Ukrainian infrastructure; provide Ukraine support in reducing reliance on Russian technology; and assist Ukraine in improving its ability to build capacity, expand cybersecurity information sharing, and cooperating in international response efforts.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Congressman Boyle applauded plans to provide Ukraine with over $5 million in new cyber assistance. Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, announced the proposed assistance during the first United States-Ukraine Bilateral Cyber Dialogue, held in Kyiv in September 2017.  Rep. Boyle notes that “by assisting Ukraine, we can protect an important ally in a critical region of the world while at the same time learning best practices to best defend ourselves.”

Brendan Boyle shared a similar message in his keynote remarks delivered at an event titled International Cybersecurity Leaders Forum: The U.S.-Ukraine Cybersecurity Partnership, which was organized by the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University (GWU).  Other speakers at the gathering, which was held hours before the bill’s passage, included Dmytro Shymkiv, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, and Oleh Derevianko, Co-Founder and Chairman of Information Systems Security Partners in Kyiv.  Mr. Derevianko emphasized that after so many years of always being on the receiving end of international assistance, it was gratifying to see that Ukraine, due to its experience on the front lines of Russia’s cyber aggression, is now able to offer help to other countries in dealing with the global challenges of Russia’s cyberattacks and hybrid warfare.

A growing number of experts and political leaders are taking note of Ukraine’s ability to contribute to the security of the U.S. and other countries. A day earlier, in what essentially became a “Ukraine cybersecurity week in Washington,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), who is a supporter of the U.S.-Ukraine cybersecurity bill, provided opening remarks at a related forum titled Russia’s Cyber Operations in Ukraine and Beyond, which was held at the Atlantic Council.  Speaking of the common threat to the West posed by Russia’s cyber aggression, Congressman Hurd emphasized that Russia is sharpening its cyber warfare tactics in Ukraine for export to other parts of the world.  “Let’s work with an ally [Ukraine] who has the capabilities, the willingness, to stand up to Russia, because what happens in Ukraine is going to happen in the rest of Europe,” he said. Representative Hurd called Ukraine “the center of gravity” of the U.S. “geopolitical struggle” with Russia.

The video from the GWU forum on The U.S.-Ukraine Cybersecurity Partnership can be viewed by clicking here.

The video from the Atlantic Council’s conference on Russia’s Cyber Operations in Ukraine and Beyond is available here.

Photo at top of page: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) introduced H.R. 1997 – the Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act of 2017,  The photo is from the Congressman’s Facebook page.

BY ADRIAN KARMAZYN

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