Evolving Cyber Operations and Capabilities

Most networks can be breached, and most software has exploitable flaws. This can give unparalleled advantage to attackers, but the situation in Ukraine suggests that an energetic and thorough defense can prove more than adequate in matching this advantage. The Ukraine experience can guide decisions on cyber defense, and it suggests that adequate cyber defense will require different approaches, involve new actors, and be complex for nations to construct and coordinate. As part of the UK National Cyber Security Centre’s efforts to shape debate and discussion around cybersecurity issues, this collection of essays examines the war in Ukraine, with a view to the wider debate around the role and value of cyber capabilities.

These essays explore different aspects of defense and resilience—including the actors that contribute to it—and identify lessons that Western countries can draw from the Ukrainian experience to build robust, collective cyber resilience. This includes the power of partnerships, whether in responding to cyberattacks or ensuring the continuation of vital services amidst conflict, and the unprecedented coalition of government, multinational, industry, and civil society actors whose efforts have enabled a stronger Ukrainian defense. The essays provide a deeper understanding of the use of cyber operations in the war—and how democratic countries should, in light of this, prepare their cyber defenses and resilience, whether within or outside of a conflict.

This report is made possible by the generous support from the UK National Cyber Security Centre. 

James Andrew Lewis
Senior Vice President; Pritzker Chair; and Director, Strategic Technologies Program
Georgia Wood
Program Manager and Research Associate, Strategic Technologies Program