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Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim at the “Cyber Security Challenges in Albania” Conference
February 7, 2023

Deputy Prime Minister Balluku, Ministers and colleagues, it is great to see a room full of the key people in Albania that are responsible for cyber security, and the main partners, including the United States, among nations that want to support Albania’s efforts to keep itself secure, safe, and prosperous.

Alliances matter most in difficult times. Iran’s cyberattacks on Albania, the United States’ NATO Ally, have been dangerous, reckless, and a threat to the Albanian people and the Albanian nation. The United States will not hesitate to respond forcefully to malicious cyber actors when their actions threaten the United States or our Allies, or friends and partners.

Immediately after Iran’s cyberattack in July, the United States took action to support Albania. Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan conveyed our support to Prime Minister Rama directly, and the White House strongly condemned Iran’s attack and expressed full support for Albania in the face of the attacks. The U.S. Treasury Department announced significant sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, including the Minister of Intelligence himself.

Starting in July, the United States has also – without interruption – continuously sent our most skilled cyber security experts to work alongside Albania’s expert, including Igli Tafa, to conduct forensics, identify existing and potential vulnerabilities and threats, and take concrete steps to strengthen Albania’s cybersecurity against future threats. In one of his first international engagements, our new Ambassador-at-Large for Cybersecurity and Digital Policy, Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, came to Albania and, alongside Dr. Tafa, helped coordinate our joint response to Iran’s attacks and assistance for Albania’s cybersecurity. Two weeks ago, Defense Minister Peleshi discussed our joint cybersecurity response with U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin and with leaders of the U.S. Cyber Command.

The United States has worked alongside Albania on a broad international response, beginning with NATO Allies and other close partners, to condemn Iran’s attack and to express support for Albania. And not just to express support, but to bring concrete actions to bear.

You are not alone. You’re not alone in being targeted for cyber-attacks, and you are definitely not alone in the response. The United States is with you.

It’s clear that the United States and Albania need to identify our collective defense against and response to cyber-attacks. Working alongside Dr. Tafa, the United States and Albania are implementing one of our largest ever security assistance

efforts, amounting to $50 million in support of hardening Albania’s cyber defenses.

This is just the beginning. As Defense Minister Peleshi mentioned, we have long been working with your defense sector to harden their defenses to the amount of $25 million. Most recently, we have begun implementing an additional $25 million in direct response to Iran’s attacks. This is the beginning of assistance and not the totality of it. So, rest assured that we will expand our efforts.

We are building on U.S. cyber assistance to Albania, dating back to 2017, when USAID began providing cybersecurity support to Albania’s energy sector. U.S. cyber assistance is not limited to software and hardware alone. We’re also expanding training and experts’ exchanges with Albanian cybersecurity professionals. We’re working closely with the private sector, including using our state-of-the-art research labs and a talented team of experts from Microsoft to augment these efforts.

From incident response to digital forensics, strategic planning to risk analysis, we are committed to enabling and supporting Albania to defend itself. We cannot substitute for your own defense, but we will do everything in our power to enable you to defend yourselves. The steps that the United States and Albania have taken together are significant, and as I said before, they will continue.

We must recognize that cyber-attacks from malicious actors like Iran and others will be a persistent, evolving threat. They’re not going to go away. There’s no magic bullet to solve that problem. We must not only keep pace with the threat, but seek to put ourselves ahead of the curve. I’m pleased that we are here today to discuss cybersecurity efforts and then to take action collectively to support each other in this global challenge.

As we have observed in Albania, cybersecurity is a critical component of national security and is vital to protecting against data theft, economic loss, threats to infrastructure, defense and other key services. Today’s event demonstrates international solidarity in the face of that persistent, evolving threat. I’m proud to join my EU and OSCE and Israeli colleagues today and so many others who are here, along with the private sector, in supporting Albania. It’s a powerful signal to those who would wish to undermine our allies and partners around the world. We welcome the continued support of NATO’s allies and other key partners to support Albania’s cybersecurity efforts, and we’re very much looking forward to today’s discussion and to the action that will follow after this conference. We will continue to work together very closely, side by side.

Thank you very much.