Poland's military strikes new deal to bolster cybersecurity, starting with cryptography

A new deal between Poland's ministry of defence and three universities is aimed at swelling the ranks of its cyberwar forces.
Written by Michiel van Blommestein, Contributor

With the turmoil in neighbouring Ukraine, the timing of a new deal between the Polish ministry of defence and three of the country's universities to boost cybersecurity seems hardly likely to be a coincidence.

After an earlier deal under with the Polish defence ministry which saw new cybersecurity courses scheduled for the next academic year at the Military University of Technology, the Polish military on Thursday signed a new agreement with three regular universities.

The agreement will bring in research collaborations in the areas of mathematical and information technology with the University of Warsaw, the Technical University of Warsaw, and the Technical University of Wroclaw. The military is especially keen on bolstering the numbers of the country's — and its own — mathematicians, IT experts and programmers and supporting their work.

The deal will see the newly-minted cryptography and cyberwarfare branch of the Polish military, known as the National Cryptology Center, working with the civilian instituions in the hope of arming itself with the technical knowledge necessary for online offence.

The main focus will be cryptography, both in creating new cyphers that can be used to secure communications, as well as cracking existing ones. The universities will get funds directly from the government; while they are allowed to commercialise part of that research (that is, sell it to private companies), the main aim is to enhance Poland's cyberwar capabilities — meaning the most effective research will remain secret.

According to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland currently lacks its own cryptographic experts. As a result, the country is forced to buy cryptography technology from its allies. With the drip feed of NSA scandals showing no sign of letting up, that doesn't seem like such an attractive proposition any more.

"The cryptographic security of information should not depend on algorithms to which a country does not have full rights," Piotr Markowski, the National Cryptology Center's director, told Gazeta Wyborcza. "The ability to secure its information with its own algorithms shows the power of a country."

The newspaper estimates the Polish army would need around 50 new cybersecurity experts to meet its goals of cryptographic prowess and independence. The bulk of new recruits will come from those graduating from the military academy, but the ministry also says it is willing to hire civilians for its new cyber-army.

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