Nov 21, 2023 - Technology

Ukraine pushes out senior cyber officials amid embezzlement probe

Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, was recently dismissed. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Ukraine's top two cyber officials were ousted Monday amid an embezzlement probe at the country's cybersecurity agency.

Why it matters: Russian state-backed hackers are still targeting Ukrainian organizations as part of the ongoing war — putting Ukraine's cyber defense agency in the center of wartime operations.

What's happening: Taras Melnychuk, a senior Ukrainian cabinet official, said in a Telegram message Monday that the government had dismissed both Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP), and his deputy Victor Zhora.

  • While Melnychuk did not mention the reasons for their dismissals, the news came shortly before Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was investigating SSSCIP senior leadership for possibly misusing and embezzling funds set aside for software purchases.
  • Dmytro Makovskyi has now been named the acting head of the SSSCIP.

The big picture: Both Shchyhol and Zhora have been well regarded across the international cybersecurity community and championed for their work defending Ukraine against Russian aggression.

  • Zhora played an integral role in coordinating Ukraine's cyber defense work with international partners, including the U.S.
  • Zhora was just in the Washington, D.C., area this month to give a keynote address at the Cyberwarcon conference about Ukraine's cyber defenses.

What they're saying: "I am confident that I will be able to prove my innocence during an impartial investigation and directly in court," Shchyhol said in a Facebook post, according to The Record.

  • Zhora said in a series of posts on X that he was "grateful to the chairman, my colleagues and friends from the team of deputies, probably the best team in Ukraine, as well as all my extraordinary and dedicated colleagues."
  • Zhora did not comment on the probe, but added, "I only regret that I didn't have time to launch the national bug bounty, we didn't manage to pass the draft law 8087, which is extremely necessary for the state, didn't manage to legislate the Cyber Forces, despite the laid foundations for their creation."

Between the lines: Whoever heads up the SSSCIP will have a central role in working with Western allies to share threat intelligence and foster continued support for Ukraine's fight.

Go deeper