Is Ukraine prepared to wage a cyber war?

As the war on the ground escalates, many come to wonder whether Ukraine is prepared to take on another full-scale battle online.

Since 2015, Ukraine has faced the most cyberattacks from Russia among the post-Soviet block. To assess how ready the countries in the region are to deal with cyberattacks, Surfshark analyzed the cybersecurity preparedness of the former Soviet states.

Surprisingly, the ex-Soviet countries were found to have some of the best cybersecurity capabilities in the world. This likely has to do with their geographical proximity to Russia and the long-standing worries over its expansion ambitions.

This can be at least partially attributed to having a neighboring expansionist threat and the need to protect democracies from external threats that target the public sphere.

The average cybersecurity index of the ex-Soviet countries is almost 20% higher than the global average (42.71,) with four out of 15 nations ranking “extremely high.”

As such, the Baltics and Ukraine all surpass the global and European average by a large margin. Lithuania leads the top with a score of 93.51 (the result is 84% better than the post-Soviet average.) Estonia follows closely, with a score of 90.91 (which is 79% higher than the post-Soviet average.) This puts both countries ahead of Australia, France, Canada, the US, the UK, and Germany.

The last in the top 3 are Latvia and Ukraine, sharing the same score of 75.32 and surpassing the European average.

Russia, in turn, came in fourth, with a score of 71.43, which is slightly below the European average of 73.23.

Despite the fact that high GDP often correlates with big investments in cybersecurity, it is not a necessary prerequisite for having a strong defense in place.

“Ukraine’s GDP per capita of 4K USD is almost six times lower than the Baltic states – and 16 times lower than Australia’s GDP. Nevertheless, Australia’s cybersecurity index is 12% lower than Ukraine’s.”

European former Soviet states surpass Asian countries of the same region when it comes to cyber capabilities. The ex-Soviet Asian nations averaged an index of 31.49, which is more than two times lower than the European standard. The report notes a correlation between political regimes and digital performance: average indexes of democracies were twice higher than those of autocracies. Overall, Ukraine performed extremely well regarding its cyber preparedness both among the post-Soviet countries and European nations.

At this point, it seems like Russia has tried out its entire cyber arsenal and will likely continue to employ the same tactics. However, the full-scale cyber war between Russia and Ukraine hasn't erupted, with some analysts attributing this to the confusion in the Kremlin’s decision-making process. Since the invasion was likely decided on at the highest level, it was impossible to swiftly deploy disruptive cyberattacks. Despite that, it's still possible that the cyber conflict might escalate further.