A US Air Force humanitarian aid aircraft has secretly delivered cybersecurity tech to Ukraine to help sustain the country’s power grid this winter amidst its war with Russia.
Developed by California digital solutions firm Cisco, the capability protects areas with electrical fluctuations due to infrastructure damage from drone and missile strikes.
Fabrication of the platform was organized by the US Department of Commerce in early 2023 to support Kyiv’s power transmission operator Ukrenergo.
The project focused on securing the electricity provider’s GPS-based clocks used to manage data on power relays across the country.
“Cisco, along with power grid experts in the public and private sector, worked tirelessly for 8 months to develop, test and deploy our solution to Ukraine,” Cisco Talos Security Strategist Joe Marshall said in a Business Insider interview.
“It involved a great deal of trial and error, but we managed to develop a unique solution that helps mitigate the GPS jamming issue.”
A report from CNN stated that the “pizza box-sized” prototype was loaded into a US Air Force cargo plane intended for humanitarian air deliveries between an East Coast military installation and Rzeszów, Poland, which currently serves as a rendezvous point for donations to Ukraine.
The device was later transported to Ukraine via train. The report said engineers were waiting at the destination for additional configuration before activation.
The covert operation concluded with no issues, with Ukrenergo successfully integrating the prototype into its systems.
After confirming the platform’s effectiveness, Ukrenergo further accepted “dozens” of the devices from the US.
These components were valued at approximately $1 million but were offered for free by Cisco.
“Fighting the good fight isn’t just about cybersecurity. It’s about doing the right thing and helping others in the face of adversity,” Business Insider quoted Marshall.
“We knew that this work was our chance to make a tangible difference to Ukrainians, who are living in an active war zone. We knew this solution would help save lives – and keep the lights on in Ukraine.”
While the US commerce and defense agencies have yet to declassify the operation, the Department of Energy (DOE) published an update last February aligning with the effort.
“DOE has shipped high voltage electrical infrastructure components to Ukraine since December 2022,” the department stated.
“Working with industry, US utilities, and in consultation with DOE’s National Laboratories, the Department identified, procured, and shipped nearly 20 tons of electrical equipment on US Air Force cargo planes to help Ukraine’s electric grid and associated essential services.”
“DOE coordinated international collective actions and marshaled US resources to stabilize global energy markets, assess risks and vulnerabilities to Ukraine’s energy system, and reduce nuclear risks.”