Ukrainian officials like Boyarchuk aren’t the only ones worried about what happens here over the next few days. European and U.S. officials are also paying close attention, fearing Ukraine may be a prelude to this May’s European Parliament elections and the U.S. presidential election in 2020.“Everyone sees Ukraine as the testing ground for what is going to hit the West next from Russia,” Laura Galante, a cybersecurity analyst at the Atlantic Council, told VICE News.
"The very worst situation is that we don't know that they have access.”
Hacking the results
It’s unclear how many of these attacks have been successful, but if even a single one succeeded in tricking their victims into downloading malware, it could have huge consequences for the election.“If someone’s phishing attack was successful in December and they got access to the network, then three and a half months is enough time to be able to get to the point to be able to launch a larger attack or monitor what is going on inside networks,” Oleh Derevianko, a cybersecurity expert whose company is helping defend Ukraine’s election infrastructure, told VICE News.The election-results systems overseen by the CEC are a particular area of concern. Earlier this month, the Ukraine cyber police said they had observed attempts by Russian hackers to “test” the CEC website and obtain information about its internal network. In February, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko blamed Russia for a distributed denial of service attack on the CEC server, while the Secret Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported that Russian hackers were attempting to uncover information about the communications network used for reporting election results, including how long it would take to recover from an attack.
“The threat of cyberattacks is big, and we need only look back to 2014 when Ukraine was the first country to suffer cyberattacks on its election systems.”
“This is one of our worries: that bad actors left some hidden backdoors on systems in order to use it another time.”
“Playing with the West’s minds”
Merle Maigre, who heads up government relations with Estonian cybersecurity company Cybexer, is paying close attention to Ukraine precisely for that reason.Working with the EU, Cybexer conducted a three-day training exercise for Ukranian officials earlier this month to help prepare them for possible attacks from Russia.“I think Ukraine is a test bed, and it is important therefore to show an awareness of what’s happening in Kiev to be able to prepare ourselves for what could happen in Paris, Brussels, London or Berlin,” Maigre told VICE News.
“The main goal is to destabilize Ukraine, to discredit, to make chaos.”