Yegor Aushev, CyberUnit.Tech & Cyber School: “Our mission is to elevate the perception of Ukraine as a country of innovation”

The global cyber war is on

Cybersecurity threats to companies and states have multiplied in the last few years. According to a survey conducted in 2021 by KPMG, nearly a fifth of CEOs sees cybersecurity risks as the number one threat to their company’s growth over the next three years. Cybercrime grew during the pandemic, and in Europe alone, cyberattacks increased by 68% last year — the largest regional increase globally. 

With the invasion of Ukraine, the threat of disinformation, seen as a new kind of cybercrime, has increased. A Microsoft report in April detailed the relentless and destructive Russian cyberattacks the expert observed in a hybrid war against Ukraine. 

  • In the first three months of the current year, the system recorded 14 million suspicious cybersecurity events, of which 78 thousand were treated as critical. 40 cyber incidents were reported in total. 63% of the suspicious events were detected within ministries and organizations, and 35% affected regional government administrations.
  • A new study published by Microsoft on June 22 suggested that while much of Russia’s recent cyber activity has focused on Ukraine, at least 128 network intrusions have been detected in 42 countries. Among the key Microsoft conclusions that come from the war’s first four months is that the lessons from Ukraine call for a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to strengthen defenses against the full range of cyber destructive, espionage, and influence operations. 
  • Recently, Google executive Jared Cohen warned the United Nations Security Council that cyberattacks, disinformation, and other forms of information warfare being waged in Ukraine are a “crystal ball” for future problems elsewhere.
  • Cybersecurity spending is projected to grow from $262.4bn in 2022 to $458.9bn in 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. According to Crunchbase, 2021 set a record with global VC money invested in the sector surpassing $21.8bn. And more to come.
  • A quiet partnership of the world’s biggest technology companies, U.S. and NATO intelligence agencies, and Ukraine’s own nimble army of cyber warriors has pulled off one of the surprises of the war with Russia, largely foiling the Kremlin’sKremlin’s brazen internet hacking operations.

In early June, VICE News released the movie “HACK BACK” via Showtime, presenting Ukrainian cyber warriors who defend the country.  Ukrainian cyber expert Yegor Aushev was one of the series’ heroes, acting as the architect of the new cyber army from the first days of a full-scale invasion and invented the cyberspace rules for the ongoing cyberwar. The latest ETH Zürich CSS report, “The IT Army of Ukraine: Structure, Tasking, and Ecosystem,” featured Yegor as the initiator of the cyber army who “embarked on assembling a 1,000-men strong Ukrainian cybersecurity volunteer group at the request of a senior Ukrainian Defense Ministry official”.

We met with Yegor, cofounder of CyberUnit.Tech & Cyber School Ukraine, in Kyiv to ask about the current cybersecurity threat landscape in the ongoing war, how cyberspace is changing the rules of war and business in real-time, how the team tackles the challenges and keeps operating worldwide, and what the next steps on the agenda. 

In the comments for Forbes on February 25, Yegor said: “So far, we can perform all our regular services. The best Ukrainian cyber professionals have been engaged and working hard in multiple ways.”

Let’s see how a brave Ukrainian cyber team overcomes threats and goes ahead, driven by a mission to accelerate innovation in the Ukrainian tech scene and do it on the global stage.  

TechUkraine: Why did you choose the cybersecurity sphere? What kind of projects have been developed? 

Yegor Aushev: As a person with a Ph.D in High Energy Physics from Germany, the choice of cybersecurity may seem peculiar to outside observers who do not know me and our organization. The explanation to this is simple – life often takes a turn where we least expect it, especially when we are motivated to make a difference and take a new, brave path.

When completing my Ph.D, I worked in Fermilab in the USA and the Collider in Switzerland (participating in TOTEM project, which opened odderon), two of the world’s most scientifically advanced, but also most secure organizations, I came to appreciate the high levels of security maturity within those organizations and how it benefits the stable operations of an organization. It became clear to me that security is not just a cost, it is the engine of innovation because it provides stability, direction, and protects all that you have worked for.

In reality, everyone reading this aspires to make a difference in their own way inside an organization. However, everyone, to achieve the organizational objectives, can become a risk to company’s security.

People are the main targets of attacks today. In short, everyone is responsible for maintaining stability and innovation.

This challenge attracted me to cyber security, in which I could also help to accelerate innovation in the Ukrainian tech scene.

TechUkraine: Where is CyberUnit.Tech based?

Yegor Aushev: Our two main offices from day one are Ukraine and South Korea. We now have new small bases in Spain and Australia, but the majority of our employees are remote around the world. We often have projects where people from every office participate.

As an example of a recent project, we can have a client from Europe, with management in Ukraine, technical experts in Australia, and operational support in South Korea. We often work across time zones – someone is in USA, someone is in Europe, and someone is in Asia.

This creates challenges of course, but the diversity of talent, opinions, and various backgrounds elevates the quality of results that one is able to deliver.

That said, we are fully committed to Ukraine and accelerating innovation in the country. As a fully independent firm, our roots will continue to be in Ukraine, this is our core and our heritage. We are proud to showcase to the world Ukrainian tech excellence, CyberUnit.Tech does not see a reason to rebrand itself as an “American” or a “European” company, with its “technical office” being in Ukraine. Times have changed, it is no longer necessary for Ukrainian tech companies to hide one’s identity, real origins, and the core of their Ukrainian operations behind an American or West European façade.

In fact, by showcasing Ukrainian tech excellence in management, methodologies, and reliable results delivery, our mission as a company is to elevate the perception of Ukraine as a country of innovation, where companies are able to solve hard strategic problems for their partners through products and services.

We are past the times where Ukraine is perceived as a technical outsourcing factory or a country where you simply go to find “technical staff”.

TechUkraine: What kind of expertise do you provide, and which projects are underway? 

Yegor Aushev: After working with more than 7 governments, startups, large enterprises, and in AI data modelling, our conclusion is still the same in 2022 as in 2015: all businesses are built on people and people remain the weakest spot in any organization. There has been a tremendous amount of investment in security technologies around the world, but it hasn’t made organizations secure. Instead, we see attackers taking advantage of underinvestment of companies in their people.

Today, everyone is carrying a device, it has been difficult at best for companies to verify and update the security skills of every employee , so how do you protect the organization?

We work very hard to solve this issue with partners like CRDF Global, Ukrainian NSDC, IBM, and CISCO. We have trained 30+ different public ministries, agencies etc related to Ukrainian critical infrastructure in 2021, and this work is visible today – Ukraine is defending admirably in the cyber space against Russian attacks. Of course, critical infrastructure is often affected, but the success rate of the attackers have gone down significantly and the availability of the infrastructure has been improved.

I think the lesson here is that people remain the critical aspect of any organization and that we shouldn’t overinvest in technology and underinvest in people.

We need to remember that we are still not in the era of omnipotent AI which can replace humans. Technology is as effective and beneficial as the skill, readiness, and effectiveness of the people inside the organization.

TechUkraine: What was the core activity of your team during wartime, and how did you tackle the challenges at the beginning of the full-scale invasion by Russia?

Yegor Aushev: In 2021, we spent the entire year working with international partners such as CRDF Global and the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to train senior IT employees and decision makers in Ukrainian government critical infrastructure. Prior to the start of the war, we also proposed to organize volunteer IT groups to protect the country in case Russia attacks. This has been picked up at all levels of the society in Ukraine, from Parliament MP’s to the Ministry of Defense and various IT communities. However, everything was still at the idea stage when the war broke out.

On the first day of the war, on February 24, we called on the Ukrainian cyber community to organize defense of Ukraine in cyberspace.

The goal from the beginning was to create a system that can be then transferred to the Ukrainian government to accelerate the creation of its own cyber army. We helped recruit and vet more than 1000 highly skilled volunteers, who then engaged in work according to their professional specialty.

Our results have been in coordination with the Ministry of Defense from the start and all results have also been transferred. In the end, thousands of lives have been saved because the intelligence obtained in cyberspace helps the Ukrainian military on the ground.

While building the volunteer system to defend Ukraine in cyber space, we have continued company operations in all our core business segments – cybersecurity, software development, and metaverse.


In the first three months of the current year, the system recorded 14 million suspicious cybersecurity events. According to preliminary estimates: 

  • over 3,000 mobile service operators’ base stations fully or partially disabled, 
  • over 20 TV stations out of service, 
  • over 20% of telecommunication infrastructure damaged or destroyed,
  • tens of thousands of kilometers of fiber networks not functioning,
  • several cyberattacks having affected public and private sectors as well as individual persons,
  • over 50% of people have experienced disruptions of internet access.

TechUkraine: Could you share the cases you led to protecting and defending the country in cyberspace?

Yegor Aushev: We are not free to discuss the operations, but I can give one example that is possible to share. Prior to the start of the war and especially during the first few days, there was an uptick in ATM transactions involving foreign, especially Russian foreign cards. Together with a Ukrainian bank, we did a deep analysis of Russian card usage data, and traced them to many sabotage groups operating in Ukraine during the early days of the war. The sabotage groups that we discovered were then neutralized by the Ukrainian military.

The most important element is that we created a model of a “cyber army” for the Government of Ukraine in under 2 weeks.

This is a great achievement because such undertakings usually take years to plan and execute, in many ways we achieved something incredible already. Our knowledge and our system has already been transferred to the Ukrainian government and we will continue to actively support them. Finally, we must emphasize that what we are doing is purely volunteer work.


The Kremlin-backed cyberattack against satellite communications provider Viasat Inc., which happened an hour before Russia invaded Ukraine, was “one of the biggest cyber events that we have seen, perhaps ever, and certainly in warfare,” according to Dmitri Alperovitch, a co-founder and former CTO of CrowdStrike

“One thing that the Ukrainians have taught us so well – and they certainly have had eight years of practice and suffered from Russian cyber operations – is the importance of resiliency. The reality is that a number of these Russian attacks are successful. However, the Ukrainians are able to rebuild the networks within hours.”

TechUkraine: The next steps for the team?

All our activities are in line with our company mission of positioning Ukraine as a country of excellence in tech, that “Made in Ukraine” is world class.

We are increasing our cooperation with Korean clients and growing our presence in the country, not only because of our roots, but also because South Korea is an example to follow – it was poorer than Somalia in 1950 and is now a leading exporter of high tech products such as semiconductors.

We are in the process of developing security products, some of them tested when defending Ukraine in cyberspace, and rolling them out to clients beginning fall.

The core technology behind our new products was already tested last year and the reception has been fantastic, especially with clients in critical infrastructure or startups with cutting edge technologies to protect, such as AI data modeling tech.

Finally, we are continuing to expand into new fields beyond cybersecurity, such as Metaverse, developing blockchain and architecture parts of the projects.

The game has a lot of features never seen before elsewhere and a result of cooperation between both teams.

Overall, these times are not easy for anyone, but I trust that we all find additional meaning in our lives. Who we are as people and as a company became crystal clear. We are motivated daily to work from every corner of the globe to protect thousands of civilian lives, help protect critical infrastructure on which the entire country depends, and drive increased revenues and operational stability through people-focused cybersecurity for companies. We believe that it is not the time to reduce the scope of activities in an organization. Difficult times create the necessity for boldness.

Ukrainian companies now have the opportunities we could never dream about – we can show our innovation, courage, and skill on the global stage. To everyone reading this, now is our chance to show the real face of Ukraine – a country of excellence and bravery in tech.

Photo by Roman Yeremenko 

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