Free data flow, sustainability and the framework conditions for digital technologies were actually the top topics for the G7 digital ministers' meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in Düsseldorf.
The war in Ukraine has upended the program: "Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine and its digital infrastructure has caused the G7 to not only put the topic on the agenda of the digital ministers' meeting in Düsseldorf, but rather we stand more united than before in our joint efforts to protect our critical infrastructure from external enemies," says Digital Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) Tagesspiegel Background.
To this end, there is to be a joint declaration on the cyber resilience of digital infrastructures, a draft of which was made available to Tagesspiegel Background in advance. In it, the G7 pledge that they will continue to help Ukraine defend its networks.
They are keeping quiet about what this looks like in concrete terms. Nevertheless, this support could also be one of the reasons why there has been no major digital damage in Ukraine so far. According to experts, some countries have sent support teams to Ukraine. At the same time, the country has already massively expanded its own cyberdefensive capabilities as a result of previous attacks.
The Russian aggression against Ukraine had highlighted the dependence of networked societies on digital infrastructure, especially telecommunications, and the corresponding vulnerabilities, the statement said: "We underline the importance of protecting the digital infrastructures of free societies against harmful interference and influence by authoritarian regimes." Ukraine is applauded for maintaining communications networks under the most difficult conditions, it said.
Ukrainian Digital Minister Mykhailo Fedorov is scheduled to join the G7 ministerial meeting. He is to report on the current situation and activities in the cyber war.
There had been numerous attempts by the Russian government to damage or shut down Ukraine's digital infrastructure with targeted cyber operations.
Microsoft security researchers recently published a report on Russian cyberwarfare in Ukraine: they observed an increase in attacks on the eve of the Russian invasion, when Unit 74455, assigned to Russian military intelligence, deployed Hermetic Wiper malware to take down some 300 systems at more than a dozen Ukrainian companies and facilities.
According to Microsoft, this was just one of many attacks - the main focus of the attack wave was the first week of the war with a large number of so-called wipers. Software that completely destroys data, rendering computers unusable. But G7 countries continue to see the need for heightened alert.
Western states are also in focus; pro-Russian actors have just launched cyberattacks on the websites of German security agencies, ministries and politicians, rendering them temporarily inaccessible. According to "Spiegel," the attacks were directed against the German Federal Police and several state police agencies, among others.
The Bundestag, the Federal Ministry of Defense and the SPD website of Chancellor Olaf Scholz were also among the targets of the campaign, the magazine writes, citing an internal agency report. Some of the websites were temporarily unavailable due to the overload attacks. The pro-Russian activist group "Killnet" is said to be responsible. It claimed responsibility for the attacks on Telegram.
Image by Gerd Altmann