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Podcast 🎧 & blog: Enhancing cybersecurity in Moldova is a matter of survival

29.05.2024 | Federico Plantera

For years already, the Republic of Moldova has had to take measures to safeguard the integrity of its national cyberspace in the face of russian interference and aggression. In doing so, it has been supported by international partners and the European Union. But little would have been possible, without the effort and dedication of its civil servants.

It was our pleasure, then, to award the Ministry of Economic Development and Digitalisation of Moldova as Partner of the Year 2024, at the latest e-Governance Conference and to speak to Alexandru Corețchi, Director of the IT and Cyber Security Service of the country, during the Conference days in Tartu.

In a heartfelt interview on the Digital Government Podcast, he removes the lid on how Moldova is coping with russia’s cyberattacks and the necessity for continuing support to ensure the country’s independence in online, too.

Sophisticated and politically motivated cyber threats

Moldova’s geopolitical landscape, if not its own survival, is heavily influenced by its proximity to russia, making it a focal point for cyber aggression. “The cyber threats we face are sophisticated and politically motivated. These threats target our critical infrastructure government systems, and sensitive data. With the clear aim to destabilise and exert influence over our country,” Corețchi says.

As Corețchi points out, the nature of these attacks varies. They range from advanced persistent threats (APTs), to widespread misinformation campaigns aimed at eroding public trust in digital systems.

Local voting last year, and the Presidential elections coming later on in 2024, clearly illustrate how cyber threats are becoming a tool for political leverage. Coinciding with key political events, attacks aim to sway public opinion or disrupt governmental operations. Their persistent presence requires Moldova to remain vigilant, and continually adapt its cybersecurity measures to counteract these attacks.

Investing heavily in proactive defence measures

To counter these threats, Moldova has implemented a series of proactive measures aimed at strengthening its cyber defenses. The emphasis, here, lies on an integrated approach that combines technology, policy, and international cooperation. “As one of our key strategies, we have implemented advanced integrated management systems in information quality and security, adhering to international standards. These systems are essential for mitigating risks and ensuring a swift response to cyber incidents,” Corețchi explains.

Obviously, that doesn’t come for free. EU and its member states have supported Moldova in investing heavily in cybersecurity infrastructure. “Investing in advanced technologies like real-time threat detection systems and comprehensive monitoring tools has significantly enhanced our ability to detect and respond to cyber incidents. But continuous innovation is key to our defense strategy,” Corețchi emphasises.

Such innovation does not solely rely on implementing new technologies. Moldova has been conducting also training programs to ensure that its cybersecurity workforce is well-equipped to handle the complex nature of modern cyber threats. These programs have been carried out together with the e-Governance Academy, Cybexer Technologies and the support of the European Union and many other international partners.

Hard to understate the importance of international support

What does that mean? That Moldova’s decision makers have realised that countries, in the cyberspace, don’t have to do it all alone. Perhaps, sometimes, they just even can’t. It is often said that international cooperation is key – in this case, it might be just right a matter of pure survival.

“International partnerships are crucial for our cybersecurity efforts. By collaborating with global organisations and neighboring countries, we share intelligence, resources, and best practices, which helps us stay ahead of emerging threats,” Corețchi says.

In addition to that, Moldova participates in various international cybersecurity forums and initiatives, facilitating the exchange of information and collaborative efforts to tackle common threats.

Cyber resilience to prevent disruption

One of the pillars of Moldova’s cybersecurity strategy is ensuring business continuity and a robust incident response framework. “This involves regular risk assessments, the implementation of strong security controls, and continuous monitoring for potential threats. When an incident occurs, the response is swift and coordinated, minimising the impact and preventing further breaches. It’s all in line with keeping a proactive stance, which has been crucial in maintaining the integrity of our country’s digital infrastructure”, he says.

Regular drills and simulations are conducted to prepare for potential cyber incidents, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders are well-coordinated and ready to act. These exercises help in identifying weaknesses in the response framework and improving overall resilience.

Corețchi also highlights the importance of public awareness and education in building a resilient cyber ecosystem. The government has initiated several campaigns to educate citizens and businesses about the importance of cybersecurity – through workshops, seminars, and online platforms with practical advice (Find out more at https://www.sigurantadigitala.md/). These initiatives aim to create a culture of security awareness, where individuals are vigilant and proactive in protecting their digital life.

When survival is at stake, work doesn’t stop

Despite the ongoing challenges, Moldova has managed to keep its cyberspace largely intact. “Ultimately, this resilience can be attributed to a combination of strategic planning, technological investment, and international cooperation. Thanks to all that, we successfully countered significant cyber attacks aimed at disrupting our way of life, and posing a serious existential threat to our country as an independent nation,” Corețchi concludes.

“Now, our focus remains on enhancing our cybersecurity measures through continuous improvement and adaptation. By integrating advanced technologies, while cherishing the value of all support provided to us so far, we aim to build a robust defense against further cyber threats coming our way,” Corețchi concludes.

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