Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama speaks July 11, 2023, in Vilnius, Lithuania. Image: Edi Rama / YouTube

Albania’s PM complains US is not providing country with cyberdefense funds

Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania, said on Tuesday his country needed more funding from the United States to protect itself from cyberattacks, and complained that Congress was “not being fully supportive” in providing money.

His comments come as NATO attempts to encourage allies to meet their obligations under Article 3 of the Washington Treaty, which stresses the responsibility of allies to defend themselves, as part of the alliance’s collective cyber resilience.

Speaking at the Public Forum event running parallel to the summit, Rama was asked about an attack that disrupted government services across the country last July and what lessons that incident had provided.

“We were under attack, big attack, in cyber. Being very advanced in digital services — we practically rank among top countries in Europe for offering services online to citizens — we were vulnerable,” the prime minister said.

Authorities in both the United States and United Kingdom blamed the Iranian state for the attack, which was linked to Albania providing refuge to members of the Mujahideen E-Khalq (MEK) group which advocates overthrowing the clerical regime.

Rama said: “To strengthen our cyber defense we need more money from the Congress and the Senate. But, you know, when it’s not any more in the news, it’s not any more a problem sometimes. So the problem remains with us.”

The U.S. has allocated $6.9 billion to European defense initiatives this year, according to the White House, with much of the focus on Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

A second Iranian attack occurred in September, striking the country’s Total Information Management System, which helps automate services including passport checks and cross-referencing individuals on fugitive databases.

Following the second attack, the U.S. military deployed a team of two dozen personnel on a “hunt forward” operation to assist the Albanians in uncovering adversary activity in their networks.

The Biden administration also sanctioned Iran’s spy agency and condemned Tehran, while Albania severed diplomatic relations with Iran.

Rama said: “We are trying to do everything to strengthen our cyberdefense, but it’s not very easy.”

Asked whether he was seeing meaningful progress towards providing that support, the prime minister said, “it depends what you call meaningful.”

After jokingly confirming that the interview — which took place in front of a large audience and was broadcast online — was on the record, Rama said: “No. They are not being fully supportive in that, as much as we would wish.”

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.