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The Privacy Advisor | A conversation with Ukrainian Dmytro Korchynskyi Related reading: Final decision on Meta's EU-US data transfers delayed

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Last month, PrivatBank Senior Data Protection Specialist Dmytro Korchynskyi, CIPP/E, CIPM, FIP, was focused on protecting the personal data of their Ukrainian customers.

On Feb. 24, the Russian military launched a full-scale invasion of his homeland and upended all aspects of daily life as he and his fellow citizens have been bombarded on a scale that hasn’t been seen on the European Continent since World War II. A co-founder of Privacy Hub, a non-governmental organization that connects privacy professionals and advocates for stronger privacy protections for Ukrainians, Korchynskyi said the morale among his fellow citizens remains high, despite the asymmetry between the Russian military and his country’s military and volunteer ranks.

The Privacy Advisor had a chance to speak with Korchynskyi. He detailed how all sectors of society have been marshaled to defend their nation, including the privacy sector, which has stepped up to resist Russian cyberattacks prior to and since the invasion.

The Privacy Advisor: Can you please give an update of what you’re currently doing? What is your daily routine like?

Korchynskyi: Up to March 2, I stayed in Irpin, a city currently besieged by Russian troops. There we developed somewhat of a routine: Hide in the basement because of the constant fighting. We learned to distinguish sounds of certain war machines (LAVs, drones, tanks anti aircrafts, you name it, we heard it). I went to run errands a couple of times. I can't describe how brave our people are, when we stand in the queue to get some supplies both for ourselves and our troops even though we heard a lot of bombings around us. I volunteered to drive around and deliver medical and food supplies to our troops, and also I donated a lot of money to help our armed forces.

The Privacy Advisor: Have you been near a direct strike by the Russian military? 

Korchynskyi: On March 2, Russian troops devastated a house less than a mile away (from me), and that was the moment we decided that it is time to leave. For the next four days we were on the road, usually it would take about seven hours to get from Irpen to Lviv, but now it took four days. So right now, I am settling in to Lviv, trying to find ways to be helpful.

The Privacy Advisor: How has your work been affected?

Korchynskyi: Right now, the focus of the whole banking system is to keep it working as if everything was normal. That is why most of the data protection activities are put on hold. However, we do provide certain consultations here and there.

The Privacy Advisor: What would you like the IAPP membership to know about the current situation in Ukraine? And how can they help?

Korchynskyi: Russia is desperate, they are bombing civilian objects such as houses, hospitals, and schools, and they use vehicles with red crosses to move ammunition. First, they promise to provide a "green corridor" to let civilians flee the most devastated cities, then they break that promise and open fire on those corridors. Basically, they are committing every possible war crime. They are desperate because they realized they won't be able to win in a fair fight. That's why they try to break our morale (and) make us panic. However, they won't be able to break us. Our people stay strong. We are united, and we believe in our victory.

As for the help, don't break business relations with Ukraine as we are still very much working to deliver our services but please break business relations with Russia. By doing business with Russia, you support this invasion. Also, you may donate either to our troops or to humanitarian aid. We as a nation will appreciate any help.

The Privacy Advisor: Russian cyberattacks must be a great concern, what, if any, role does the privacy community in Ukraine play in resisting this invasion? Are you aware of any cyberattacks the Russians have launched on Ukrainian businesses and/or public entities? If so, what has been the outcome?

Korchynskyi: Russia did launch a lot of DDoS attacks on us even before the invasion. They tried to attack our public sector, our banking system, including PrivatBank, and a lot of other major supplies. We did manage to (fend) off these attacks though. However, there were reports that some people were not able to pay with their cards, but such cases were limited and currently everything works normally. 

As for the role of the privacy community, many people who work in cybersecurity and/or privacy and data protection have enlisted in the Ukrainian cyber army. This war has gone beyond fields and cities, it’s a full-scale war on the internet as well, and I am proud that many people from privacy community are fighting for Ukraine not only in the field but also in cyberspace. 

The Privacy Advisor: Are you directly involved with the armed defense of Ukraine? Do you have friends or family who are fighting?

Korchynskyi: Currently, I am not directly involved with the physical defense of Ukraine, but I am very eager to volunteer. It’s actually hard to enlist as the supply is greater than the demand. Basically, in most of the cities, military enlistment offices are overcrowded with people wanting to defend their motherland. If you don't have actual combat experience the chances of joining the military are slim (right now). I do have some friends who have served previously, and they are currently getting ready for deployment. 

The Privacy Advisor: In Western media, there have been multiple reports with images of Russian citizens protesting the war, what would you like the wider Russian population to know about the war their government started?

Korchynskyi: The Russian government prohibits the use of the word "war." Instead, they insist on calling it a "special operation." This is war. They bomb civilians, they kill innocent people and they commit war crimes. Russia is the aggressor and they attacked us. They claim to fight Nazism in Ukraine, but ironically, it is them who behave like Nazis. When speaking about World War II, Russian media uses the slogan "nothing is forgotten." Well, the facts show the exact opposite: they forgot everything (learned from that war). 

Photo by Diana Vyshniakova on Unsplash


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