Wednesday 23 October 2019

UK blames Russian intelligence for a series of 'indiscriminate and reckless' cyber attacks

Britain and its allies are pointing the finger at the GRU.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt Photo: PA
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt Photo: PA

Shaun Connolly

Russian intelligence service, the GRU, is responsible for a wave of cyber attacks across the globe, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Mr Hunt accused the GRU of waging a campaign of “indiscriminate and reckless” cyber strikes targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that a number of hackers known to have launched attacks have now been identified as the GRU.

The move will further strain relations between the two countries after Britain blamed Moscow for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury last March which left one person dead.

The NCSC associated four new attacks with the GRU, on top of previous strikes believed to have been conducted by Russian intelligence.

Among targets of the GRU attacks were the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), transport systems in Ukraine and democratic elections, such as the 2016 US presidential race, according to the NCSC.

Mr Hunt said: “These cyber attacks serve no legitimate national security interest, instead impacting the ability of people around the world to go about their daily lives free from interference, and even their ability to enjoy sport.

“The GRU’s actions are reckless and indiscriminate: they try to undermine and interfere in elections in other countries; they are even prepared to damage Russian companies and Russian citizens.

“This pattern of behaviour demonstrates their desire to operate without regard to international law or established norms and to do so with a feeling of impunity and without consequences.

“Our message is clear: together with our allies, we will expose and respond to the GRU’s attempts to undermine international stability.”

The NCSC said it was “almost certainly” the GRU behind a “BadRabbit”attack in October 2017 that caused disruption to the Kyiv metro, Odessa airport and Russia’s central bank.

And Britain’s cyber security chiefs say they have “high confidence” Russian intelligence was responsible for a strike on Wada in August 2017.

The NCSC also stated that the GRU was “almost certainly” to blame for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the US presidential election in 2016.

And the agency pointed the finger at the GRU for accessing email accounts at a small UK-based TV station in 2015.

Britain’s relations with Russia have been in the deep freeze since the Salisbury attack which targeted former Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal.

UK authorities believe two Russians, using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, smeared the highly toxic Novichok chemical on a door handle at the Wiltshire home of Mr Skripal on March 4.

The attack left Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, who was later exposed to the same nerve agent, died in July.

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