(Reuters) – Ukraine’s government is preparing for the potential need to move its data and servers overseas if invading Russian forces move deeper into the country, a senior cybersecurity official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Victor Zhora, the deputy head of Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection, pointed out that his department was planning for a possibility, but that it is being considered at all suggests that Ukrainians want to be ready for anything. Russian threat to seize sensitive government documents.
“We are preparing the ground,” Zhora said. Plan A was to protect the IT infrastructure in Ukraine. Removing it in another country would only be a “plan B or C”.
This decision could only take place after regulatory changes approved by Ukrainian lawmakers, Zhora said.
Government officials have already shipped supplies and reinforcements to safer areas of Ukraine, out of reach of Russian forces, which invaded on February 24 and besieged several towns.
Last month, Zhora told https://www.politico.com/news/2022/02/22/ukraine-centralized-its-data-after-the-last-russian-invasion-now-it-may- need-to-evacuate-it-00010777 Politico, there were plans to move critical data out of the capital Kyiv if it was threatened, but preparations for a potential transfer of data overseas go even further.
Ukraine has received offers to host data from various countries, Zhora said, declining to identify them. For reasons of proximity “a European establishment will be preferred”, he specified.
“There are a lot of options,” he said. “All proposals are welcome and worth considering.”
Zhora gave few details on how such a move might be executed, but he said past efforts to keep government data out of Russia’s reach have involved either physically transporting servers and removable storage devices, or the digital migration of data from one service or server to another. .
Even if lawmakers agreed to lift the restriction on sending Ukrainian data abroad and a protocol for retirement of IT assets was established, that would not necessarily mean that all or even most of the data or equipment government network would be sent out of the country immediately. , said Zhora.
Government agencies would have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to maintain their operations inside the country or evacuate them.
What to do in wartime with stacks of data collected by governments has become a matter of international concern following the Taliban’s blitzkrieg in Afghanistan last August that took town after town as US and foreign forces were withdrawing.
The Taliban conquest of Kabul meant that their forces were able to inherit sensitive data – such as payroll information from Afghan government employees and soldiers – that they could potentially exploit to find leads on how to arrest or eliminate national opponents.
Similar concerns are at play in Ukraine. Russia possessing Ukrainian government databases and intelligence files could be useful if Russia wanted to control Ukraine.
Pavol Jakubec, a historian at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, said Ukraine does not necessarily provide for a potential government in exile, usually as a last resort.
“They may want to prevent potential Russian efforts to shut down their operations, both analog and digital,” he said.
In 1940, Norway physically sent most of its foreign ministry archives to the north of the country, and then eventually to Britain when German forces invaded, Jakubec said.
Beyond trying to protect citizens under occupation, Ukrainian officials would like to prevent Russian forces from possessing documents “that could otherwise be tampered with by the enemy and used for propaganda purposes”, Jakubec said.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter and James Pearson; editing by Chris Sanders and Grant McCool)