Poland launches cybersecurity military unit

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s defense minister on Tuesday appointed an army general to head a new Cyber Defense Force to officially launch the unit’s operation.

Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the force’s mission includes defense, reconnaissance and, if need be, offensive actions to protect Poland’s Armed Forces from cyberattacks.

“We are perfectly aware that in the 21st century cyberattacks have become one of the tools of aggressive politics, also used by our neighbour,” Blaszczak said, apparently referring to Russia. “For that reason these capabilities are of fundamental, key nature to Poland’s Armed Forces.”

Blaszczak appointed Brig. Gen. Karol Molenda to head the unit, that will cooperate closely with the National Center for Cyber Security, initiated in 2019.

Poland’s state offices and companies occasionally fall victim to hacking.

Last year, emails were apparently leaked from the private box of Michal Dworczyk, the head of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office, and made available on the internet, presenting some government officials and decisions in negative light. Dworczyk denies they are authentic, but circumstances indicate at least some are.

Also last year, Canadian experts determined that a Polish senator, Polish lawyer and a Polish prosecutor -- all three critics of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party — were hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware. They were the first confirmations that a tool widely abused globally by repressive governments had been used in the European Union country.

The ruling party denies spying on opponents, but acknowledges it has Pegasus.

The finding triggered an inquiry in the opposition-controlled Senate.

Recently, the Canadian experts found that a 33-year-old farmer who was trying to start a political party in Poland was hacked several times by Pegasus in May 2019.